Boardroom briefing: Data-centre electricity use, waste from the mining industry and the importance of traceability in agriculture


Data centres are gobbling up the world’s electricity, mine dumps to come clean, and growing interest in traceability. Readings from around the world on business, leadership and management.

PNG DataCo’s workers building the Kumul Cable System. Credit: DataCo

PNG DataCo is not just building a domestic cable network but is also building two data centres, one in Port Moresby and one in Madang, to enable the delivery of cloud services (everything from Microsoft Exchange to Google Docs and Oracle Cloud).

There are now over 6000 data centres around the world, according to the ABC. The data centre construction market value worth over AUD$32 billion. Data centres are now such big business worldwide that many are now pondering how to stop them gobbling up the world’s electricity, with Nature reporting one researcher controversially suggesting data-centre electricity use is ‘likely to increase about 15-fold by 2030, to 8 per cent of projected global demand’.
Another thing for PNG Power to worry about?

Waste from the mining industry

Proposed Sepik Development Project. Credit: PanAust

Over 600 resource companies have been asked by the Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative to reveal the safety records of their waste storage facilities, following the collapse of Vale’s Brumadinho dam in Brazil in January, which killed hundreds.

The initiative is backed by a group of 96 institutional investors who represent more than US$10.3 trillion assets under management. Letters have been sent to 683 extractive companies seeking greater disclosure on the management of tailings storage facilities. ‘To enable proper engagement on tailings dam management we need to assess the risks and the current state of tailings dam facilities that individual mining companies are associated with and/or have responsibility for, whether under construction, operation or retired/decommissioned,’ it says.

Meanwhile, PanAust has released a statement about its ‘nation-building development pathway’ for the Frieda River project (renamed the Sepik Development Project) in West Sepik province. It says the company will ‘permanently store mine waste rock and process tailings under a deep water cover within the hydroelectric reservoir to protect the downstream environment.’

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Growing interest in traceability

Women selling watermelons at the 40-mile market near Chivasing in Markham Valley, Morobe. Credit: The National

Agribusiness will increasingly have to provide traceability for its products according to Traceability means that, if a product has a problem, it is possible to know where it came from and if any other of the products produced at the same time may have been contaminated.

There is also a marketing element: being able to demonstrate there is a quality system for tracing products encourages trust in consumers. The demand for product that is proven to be safe and wholesome is especially intense in Europe, but there is growing interest in America. According to, traceability applies to transport, storage, distribution and temperature. It can be broken down into two primary components:

  • Creating a complete and transparent record of a product’s history, from production on the farm or capture at sea, to combination with other foods and preparation, to warehousing.
  • Completing that tracking with a full and accurate record of where the product goes and under what circumstances, after leaving the manufacturing plant—subsequent transportation, temporary storage, and arrival at a restaurant or retailer and ultimately to the consumer.

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