Network connects and secures remote Super Pit

Wednesday, 14 January, 2009

Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM), operator of the massive ‘Super Pit’ in the mining town of Kalgoorlie, has replaced its ageing data network with a new network to improve security and reliability.

KCGM’s Super Pit is the largest open pit gold mine in Australia, measuring 3.2 km long, 1.4 km wide and more than 450 m deep. It produces up to 850,000 ounces of gold every year.

However, the mine’s remoteness from metropolitan centres, combined with the tough Western Australian 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.

“A remote operation like ours brings with it a number of challenges when it comes to running a fail-safe computer network, because highly skilled engineers are not easy to come by and replacement parts can take several days or more to source,” says Shaun Fessey, senior IS coordinator, KCGM.

According to Fessey, the nature of the operation demanded certain features of any new network, including the ability to keep going even if single points of equipment fail. On top of this, the sheer physical size of the operation required the ability to block individual access to the network through user profiles, to prevent unauthorised devices accessing the network.

“Our previous network didn’t give us any of the security or survivability features we were looking for,” says Fessey.

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 network is able to keep functioning, even if single points on the network fail, by giving each switch multiple paths to route network traffic. Secure access technology manages network access based on user profiles, preventing rogue devices from accessing the network without proper authentication.

“Nortel’s 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.

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