Data workers prove a rare resource for Barrick
Barrick Gold, the world's biggest gold miner, is staking new ground in a dogged push to overhaul its operations, seeking scarce artificial intelligence experts to oversee projects using technology for everything from exploration to robot-run mining.
But for an industry perceived as slow-moving and macho, attracting prized human resources can be as difficult as striking gold particularly as technology titans like Facebook and Alphabet Inc.'s Google chase the same talent.
Though the mining sector is late to the so-called "digitization" party, Barrick and others are compelled to push productivity gains in the face of rising costs and depleting resources.
Miners are stepping up investments in technology that ranges from driverless trucks to computers that sift through and make sense of mountains of data from operations.
The shift could deliver global efficiency gains of $373 billion by 2025 for the industry and its stakeholders, estimates consulting giant McKinsey & Co.
"There's so much value that can be created in mining, if we run our mines predictively, rather than reactively," said Michelle Ash, Barrick Chief Innovation Officer.
At Barrick, artificial intelligence (AI) managers will oversee projects that use computers to study reams of data, from sensors tracking equipment and workers, to better understand mine geology, for example.
Computers could analyze that information to predict where to mine the best ore, she said, or when equipment maintenance is needed, for example.
But the competition for the world's top programmers, data scientists and AI researchers - who are critical to unlocking the value of high-tech mines, is fierce.