A Broader Conversation about Physical Security in Australian Mining

A broader conversation about physical security in Australian mining

As demand for video data accelerates, it’s no longer conducive or cost-effective to run separate physical security systems in functional silos at individual mine sites and corporate offices.

A fundamental shift is underway among Australia’s mining companies that are changing their relationship with physical security systems and video management.

Put simply, video is more important than ever before, and in a broader array of operational contexts. As its utility grows, a restructure in how it’s managed is now firmly being considered. Physical security has traditionally been the domain of a handful of specialised internal operational units.

One of those, ore processing, oversees a hazardous environment that brings workers into contact with heavy earthmoving equipment, haul trucks, processing equipment and live stockpiles. Physical security systems in this context are workplace safety-oriented.

The other key user of physical security systems – with separate camera infrastructure and systems to that of ore processing – is the general site security operations team responsible for site ingress and egress as well as campus and village security. These systems tend to exist on a per-site basis; for many mining companies with multiple active operations, that mean several distinct sets of physical security infrastructure and dedicated personnel employed onsite to run each.

That structure works if the use cases for those security systems, and the data they collect, remain operationally siloed and distinct. But the trend of the past decade is towards more centralised remote operations, combined with growing business-led requirements to open up access to physical security data.

This is driving a rethink for how physical security systems and data should be treated.

The expanding demand for video

It’s worth considering what is driving increased interest for video management data in mining operators.

It’s already known that if a safety incident occurs, either in the mineral processing zone or at another part of the site, one of the key sources of evidence for health and workplace safety teams is video footage.

These teams are among the first to be lobbying for streamlined ways to access existing video data, and for greater site coverage for video management. The larger the amount of real-time video available, the higher the chance that a high-risk scenario can be detected – either by video analytics or a human – and an intervention made before what’s being observed escalates into an incident.  Companies needs to start thinking about monitoring anything in motion whether that be a forklift, or a site visitor and ultimately gather all this information together into one management point to make informed decisions.

However, safety isn’t the only internal function driving demand for more cameras and open access to data.

Video management has become elevated as a leadership concern in the past few years. A 2022 parliamentary inquiry into harassment and women’s safety sought, among other things, “more complete CCTV coverage” as standard at accommodation villages and mine sites. Another leadership concern is maintaining or increasing ore production, and optimising transport capacity. Physical security systems collect data that can be used to manage the flow of trucks and trains to ensure that the minerals mined onsite are delivered to ports faster for international shipping.

All of which is to say that physical security has moved way past the era where responsibility and data ownership can fall to disparate and distinct internal teams.

Instead, access to the data needs to be broadened, with a federated approach to managing and monitoring infrastructure, and to storing the data being collected. Total oversight of physical security infrastructure on a holistic basis is topical.

Driving that conversation forward

The question for many mining companies is: who should drive that unification discussion internally? And what team or function makes sense to operate that camera and data infrastructure for the entire organisation?

One school of thought is that a subset of IT may be well positioned to assume overall responsibility for all physical security systems, data streaming and storage. That subset – SecOps, or security operations personnel – may be a relatively recent addition to the business technology function, but may be a natural fit – being based at head office, having infrastructure capabilities and being in a role intended to bridge physical and IT security.

The broadening of the SecOps function to address physical security risks, using data from both IT security and physical security groups, is a key trend being seen this year. The convergence of IT and physical security groups into a single organisation is allowing for cutting-edge security technology to transcend into operations and the broader business to assume this role.  SecOps will likely need support from business leadership.

Outside of SecOps, business analysts may also have a role to play in promoting discussions about centralising physical security management and federating data access in the mining industry. Analysts are often uniquely positioned at the intersection of multiple internal functions. Their work is focused on finding cost savings and productivity improvements, and so they can also be instrumental in taking a business case for the realignment of physical security moving forward.

In addition to finding the right person to lead the conversation and gaining executive sponsorship, technology will also be crucial to success, especially those open platforms where large amounts of critical data can be collected, stored and analysed.

The need for unified, cloud-connected physical security solutions will increase as cross-departmental collaboration and use cases for video data expands. This unified and connected view will help teams get a complete picture of systems and changing threats while enabling them to use data more effectively.

George Moawad, Country Manager for ANZ at Genetec
George Moawad
As the Country Manager for Oceania at Genetec, George leads a team of professionals who deliver cutting-edge network-based security solutions for private, public, corporate, and commercial clients. With over 28 years of experience in the electronic physical security industry, George has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in this dynamic and evolving field. His core competencies include channel development, sales management, strategic planning, and customer relationship building. George is passionate about providing solutions that are low impact and low demand in IT environments, and that offer unified interfaces for simplified operation. He is also committed to upholding the core corporate ideals of integrity and mutual respect, and to fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation within my team and with our partners. George's mission is to drive growth and excellence for Genetec in the Oceania region, and to create value and security for our clients.