The Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) located in the outback of Western Australia has replaced its aging data network with a new system from Nortel.
KCGM manages and operates the 'Super Pit', which yields up to 850,000 ounces of gold every year.
At 3.2km in length, 1.4km in width and more than 450m deep, it is also the biggest open pit gold mine in Australia.
Its remoteness from metropolitan centres, combined with the tough outback conditions typical of Australia's mining regions, makes it paramount that sensitive communications equipment be particularly hardy against failure, and easy to manage and maintain.
KCGM senior IS coordinator Shaun Fessey says such a remote operation has its own challenges when it comes to running a fail-safe computer network.
"Highly skilled engineers are not easy to come by and replacement parts can take several days or more to source," he says.
"We approached Nortel for its unique network architecture — which prevents single points of equipment failure from bringing down the network — and for its dedicated security features that allow us to block individual access to the network and manage access through user profiles, an important precaution in a large, remote site," he says.
The mine's previous network didn't have any of the security or survivability features it required, he says.
"This solution will easily support the growth of the company for the next five years and also gives us a simple upgrade path to new technology like IP telephony and unified communications, which we're now considering," Fessey says.
Nortel Australia-New Zealand general manager of enterprise solutions Mark Fioretto says Australian mining companies have come through a successful boom period and are now looking to expand their networks to remain globally competitive.
He says this often means adding more high-value applications, including IP telephony and videoconferencing, to connect employees across national and international offices. "By implementing these types of applications companies can stay competitive by connecting their workforces in different regions," he says.
"In doing so, they need to ensure they have enough capacity to handle the additional traffic, and that the quality of service is maintained throughout, which is what we're able bring to the table."
The Nortel solution, being sold and implemented by Nortel nPower channel partner WJ Moncrieff, includes a combination of Nortel Ethernet Routing Switch (ERS) 5530s for the network core and Nortel ERS 5520 switches at the network edge.
The switches feature a unique Split Multi Link Trunking (SMLT) architecture, which eliminates single points of failure on the network by giving each switch multiple paths to route network traffic.
It also features Secure Network Access (SNA) technology that manages access based on individual user profiles.