Dec '15/Jan '16

A miner’s mobile toolkit

Smart apps for smartphones

By Kate Sheridan

iAuditor’s smartphone and tablet app makes audit reporting simple and efficient | Courtesy of iAuditor

Drilling and blasting and big “iron” make up the main events in mining, but so much of what keeps an operation running smoothly requires a finer touch. The advent of smartphones, and mining applications along with them, has the potential to increase the efficiency of decision making and problem solving. That comes with a big caveat: when on-site, for safety’s sake, the best place for your phone is in a pocket.


This app cuts audit reports down to smartphone or tablet size. Management can create templates to be used for reports, and auditors can take their device out into the field, take pictures to show the condition of items and annotate the pictures to point out any issues. Once they are done, the information they have compiled is exported with a click, properly formatted and organized within the app itself.

The app has at least one high-profile client in the mining industry: Goldcorp piloted it at its Red Lake mine in Ontario, though it has not yet been rolled out company-wide.

Although the app might make a safety audit routine much more efficient, Goldcorp senior vice-president of people and safety Paul Farrow said, “the most effective catalyst for change with respect to safety behaviours remains face-to-face interaction and a personal commitment to take responsibility for safety, speak up and continuously look for ways to engineer out risk.”

Target users: Auditors, or those who manage auditors

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free, with some pricing plans available for additional data backup, analytics and exporting options.


Quick calculations, helpful explanations and even graphs are all basic features of this legendary program’s app. Ask it to “integrate lnx” and it will provide indefinite and definite integrals and a graph. Step-by-step solutions are available for those who have purchased the app. Solutions are also available on a web browser, but the step-by-step explanations are only visible to subscribers.

But the app goes well beyond a calculator – it is like a search engine on steroids. It offers detailed information on commodities, countries and chemicals by asking simple queries. The app will provide a wealth of information, even if a user searches with a single word.

Target users: Anyone

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle, Windows phones and tables

Price: $3.49 (Apple, Microsoft); $3.98 (Amazon); $3.90 (Google Play)

Pocket Blast Guide

Orica’s blasting guide provides users with more than just information about the company’s products. It also helps professionals with blasting calculations and provides reference tables on rules of thumb and rock properties, replacing heavy paper manuals and hard-copy handbooks. The app updates automatically when an Internet connection is available so the information available is accurate. Users must register with Orica to get started – 15,000 already have – and James Lawrence, the company’s global customer communications manager, said the users are affiliated with “major mining companies and smaller operations alike.”

Target users: Blasters in any industry using Orica equipment

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android

Price: Free

ElectriCalc Pro

This app puts a professional electrician’s industrial calculator on a smartphone. Calculated Industries’ application, which has been updated to comply with the American 2014 National Electrical Code, can work through nearly a dozen equations, including wire sizes, fuse and breaker sizes, kilowatts per hour and British thermal units. Out of the box, the app is compliant with the past six versions of the NEC.

Target users: Electricians working with the American electric codes

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: $29.99, upgrades to new code years are $9.99 each.

Resources Queensland

The app itself, released by the Queensland government in 2014, is populated with PDFs and webpages with valuable details for prospective or current investors in the Australian state, including the state government’s 30-year plan for the resource sector and industry events. All of the information is organized in a visually appealing layout and structure. The government’s website is also responsive, so pages remain legible even on a phone’s smaller screen. Better still, it downloads the information onto the phone’s hard drive so it can be accessed even without Wi-Fi or data coverage.

Queensland is one of two Australian state governments to push this type of information to investors via a mobile app; South Australia unveiled their app in October 2013. Since the Queensland app was released, it has been installed about 1,000 times.

Target users: Current or prospective investors who like to have key information stored in a well-labelled place.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free

Commodities Pro

Track commodities prices and put them in context with news articles and analysis with this app. Commodities futures information is also available for products including copper, gold and silver. The unpaid version has limited daily access, with the option to pay for more access.

Target users: Traders, as well as those who produce or use the commodities.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (including Apple Watch)

Price: Free; $49.99 for the Pro

Dyno Nobel’s Explosives Engineers’ App

This app is also a blasting calculator at its core. Operators can use it to determine explosives per blasthole and powder factor, and predict ground vibration. The calculations can be done in either imperial or metric units.

It also includes a reminder to check the environment for hazards and guides you through a hazard assessment checklist. “Safety is such an important part of our industry that we wanted to have that at the front,” said Rick Atkin, Dyno Nobel’s global marketing and commercialization manager.

In addition, there are some fact sheets and videos from Dyno Nobel available on the app. Registration is not required, so it can work right out of the virtual box.

Target users: Blasters or distributors who work with Dyno Nobel products, though Atkin noted the app has attracted some students as well.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free


At the end of a conference or meeting, there will be dozens of business cards stuffed into pockets, bags or wallets – and all of them have names, emails and phone numbers that should be added to a proper directory of contacts. You have been out of the office for three days: do you really have a couple hours to sort them all out?

CamCard makes the task easier. To add information from a business card to a searchable database, take a picture. The app also allows users to exchange e-cards, useful if they have run out of traditional, paper cards. It is more efficient than just organizing cards in a random pile on a desk. Paid plans for businesses allow users to import and export Excel files and send contacts to Outlook, Google or Salesforce.

Who should use it: Businesspeople who want to break free of a stuffed Rolodex.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android, Windows phones

Price: Free; paid version available
Stephan Jou of Interset discusses cyber security in mining

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     Cover story: The year ahead      Project Profile: Drakelands mine     Technology: 3D modelling
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