Distilling Data 1

Distilling Data

Managing data is challenging.  People borrow from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when describing the most common challenge with data. “Data, Data everywhere…” they say, highlighting parallels to the author’s anguish over being surrounded by water, but dying of thirst.  Like untreated sea water, untreated data has limited value and it certainly won’t quench your thirst for information.

Big Data is spoken about in hushed voices as if it is a panacea to float upon to salvation. But even Big Data, if untreated, can be disorganized, incomplete, and unreliable. In the context of environmental monitoring, this can be caused by the variety of surveillance sources in inspection and monitoring regimes, institutional data silos, shift changes and personnel turnover, or inconsistent data management policies. Treated data is valuable because it becomes information: information that can be used to make critical decisions about risks, liabilities, and perform accurate and predictive cost benefit analysis.

If you’re like me, you have a tendency to put things in a ‘special place’ and then forget where you left them. Monitoring data is no different. When a mine nears its end of life, how much time do you think is spent just looking for historical monitoring data? Critical monitoring data collected throughout the life of asset- from exploration through to closure - we find juggled between spreadsheets, drop boxes, shared files, or with multiple consulting firms.  Data, that if aggregated, correctly stored and quality-controlled, could inform key closure decisions and help accurately predict long term closure and relinquishment liabilities.

At Okane, we spend a lot of time with a lot of data.  We maintain a comprehensive database of climatic site models, verified through installed monitoring instruments. Our databases combine and store an exhaustive list of data from soil monitoring, water monitoring, snow surveys, gas analyzers, Guelph permeameter measurements, laboratory testing, and field observations. It would be a sea of data one could drown in, except that it is organized, quality controlled, and is summarized in easy-to-understand, site-specific graphics. Our clients invest significantly in capturing critical environmental monitoring data; we ensure that data presented in a format that is useful to support decision making.

Since 2014 we have been following specific data quality assurance and control protocols to ensure data quality and usability for our clients. We think it is important that our clients have access to their data whenever they want, so we store it in a secure database accessible on demand through an easy-to-use web portal. Our clients use this data for regulatory reporting, risk analysis, and predictive modelling. They know that the data we maintain is centralized, secure, accessible, and easy to integrate into their decision-making tools. This is the kind of Advanced Data Management we strive for. The kind of data that gives people the right information to make the right decisions and helps to create a better tomorrow.