Kalgoorlie mine finds network redundancy gold

Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines has revamped its data network, replacing Cisco with Nortel in a quest to minimise downtime.

Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) has revamped its data network, replacing Cisco with Nortel in a quest to minimise downtime.

A KCGM mine
Credit: KCGM

For Kalgoorlie, the mine's network is mission-critical, allowing workers to track assets like trucks and shovels, monitor levels of dust and other particles in the air for environmental purposes, as well as keeping the inventory up-to-date, while the remote location of the mine makes getting engineers and parts a difficult task.

KCGM's incoming Nortel network will replace a Cisco system, according to Kalgoorlie's senior information systems coordinator, Shaun Fessey. The previous network was working fine, he added, with the mine's upgrade "just an exercise of moving onto new technology".

The decision to go with Nortel was "purely based on an ability to offer redundancy", according to Fessey.

While Cisco networks also offer redundancy, the cost of engineers would have been higher, he said, with network changes such as adding more WLANS necessitating engineers with a higher level of expertise.

With KCGM's current set-up, when a core switch fails, the network will still remain operational, due to Nortel's split multilink trunking technology. "It's smart enough to know when it's lost the link to another switch," Fessey said.

Another advantage of the Nortel network is its security features, which manage network access through user profiles, Fessey said. However, he admitted that despite the network going live in September, the security features have not yet been installed.

The implementation and testing of the network took two to three months — longer than expected, due to a concurrent upgrade of the mine's IT including moving its systems from traditional servers to virtual ones running on blade hardware.

The hardware cost for the network ran to around AU$200,000, according to Fessey, while the software costs were tied up in the larger upgrade. Infrastructure costs also figured in the network update: another loop of fibre was laid to enable the redundancy.