Monitoring solution streamlines mining company environmental obligations

Client: Glencore (formerly Xstrata)
Platform: Environmental Monitoring Database
Industry: Mining

Project Brief

The original scope was to develop an online database solution to allow Xstrata Coal (now Glencore) to keep accurate records of the methane being flared. Methane is 27 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2, so the intermediate solution was to burn it using special flares (now it is used to generate electricity). The amount of gas being flared had to be accurately measured and recorded in a tamper-proof system to provide the appropriate statistics to the government.

The environmental management team quickly saw the benefits of an online system and asked us to expand the database to include many other sample types such as meteorological, ground water, surface water, dust, blast and so on.

Solution Delivered 

Since 2008, the Environmental Monitoring Database has been expanded in every way possible. The number of mines, sample types, records and the number of users and integrations with other systems have all dramatically increased.

Delivery Timeline 

2008 – DB Gurus develop gas tracking system for Beltana mine (Bulga). This is then extended to cover the sample types that are monitored at the mine, pulling data in from many disparate sources.

2009/10 – We copied and modified the EMD at two other Xstrata sites within the Hunter Valley.

2011 – Xstrata Coal commissioned DB Gurus to implement the EMD at all their coal mines within NSW – a total of 10 at the time. These were predominately located in the Hunter Valley and Newcastle regions.

2013 – Xstrata became Glencore, and another five mines were added for Queensland.

2014/15 – Version 2 was developed, a multi-tenanted database using a single source code that allowed users to seamlessly switch between mines, as well as do reporting across mines. The number of mines sites increased to 18.

2016 to present – EMD V2 has been constantly refined to handle more data sources, more data providers, more sample types and more integrations. There have also been many improvements to the functionality and speed of the database.


What was the project timescale? 
There has been continual progress for over 15 years, and it’s expected to go on for many more. We have maintained and worked on a list of improvements to enhance the user experience over that time, as well as fixing bugs as they crop up.

What challenges have been faced? 
The biggest challenge with the EMD has been keeping the system fast with the enormous quantity of data being added each year. This has been challenging because the database design allows the instant creation of new tables, fields and reports, which dictates a highly flexible design.

What were the successful aspects of the project? 
This project has been successful in virtually every aspect. It has been developed and deployed in a timely manner with almost no outages. The users are very happy with the system and find it very easy to use, as well as extremely reliable.

What new features were developed? 
A huge number of features have been developed, including advanced notifications to advise users when there is an issue they need to address, geographic mapping allows them to see and locate sample sites, advanced graphs, Excel reporting and integrations with systems like ALS, Dynamaster and Novacom.

What went “sub-optimally”?
When we started this project, we copied the database from one mine to another and then modified it for their purposes. This became an issue when we ended up with many versions of essentially the same database system. Changes and fixes had to be made and deployed over and over, which was very inefficient. This was rectified when we released V2 and moved to a standard code base for all mine sites.

What training and materials were provided?
A series of “cheat sheets” form the heart of the help system, plus a set of training videos that demonstrate various aspects of the system.


“DB Gurus has been our trusted partner, providing an Environmental Monitoring Database for our 18 mines in New South Wales and Queensland for well over 10 years.

Their dedication to delivering a high-quality solution has been exemplary. The database has been both innovative and robust, helping us achieve our compliance goals. They have demonstrated technical expertise and unwavering commitment to service and support, and the system has been extremely reliable, exceeding all of our expectations.

The user-friendly interface, along with the instructional videos, have helped enormously with deployment. Internal staff can move between sites seamlessly, external contractors require little or no training to get started and upload data manually or automatically.

I can wholeheartedly recommend DB Gurus to any organisation seeking a reliable and advanced database solution. Their long track record with us speaks volumes about their capability to deliver exceptional results.”