Collaboration call

THE mining equipment, technology and services sector is showing encouraging signs of willingness to collaborate and improve competitiveness.
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Elizabeth Lewis-Gray (second from the left) at the METS Ignited workshop in Adelaide.

Noel Dyson

That is the view of METS Ignited chairwoman Elizabeth Lewis-Gray who has been on a gruelling road trip across the country engaging with miners and METS players.

METS Ignited, together with its partners Austmine and CSIRO, held seven interactive workshops  in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Newcastle.

Over the course of those workshops they met with more than 250 key people from the sector. 

METS Ignited has also held more than 40 one-on-one interviews with mining and METS companies throughout Australia.

Key industry drivers tested by the consultation included:

  • Global trends such as the rise of China and India;
  • Digitisation, including sensors, automation and robotics;
  • Data and data analytics;
  • Rising social licence to operate expectations within the community; and
  • Vertical integration of supply chains and new business models.

Another need identified is for sites, be they actual mines, test mines or virtual sites, to prove technologies.

“METS Ignited has heard firsthand from the mining supply chain about the key industry drivers, challenges and opportunities facing the sector now and where it needs to be in 10 years,” she said.

The national engagement program is part of METS Ignited’s remit to deliver a 10-year road map called the Sector Competitiveness Plan.

The plan will identify ways to strengthen the global position of the Australian METS sector and support global mining customers.

“Industry contribution is vital to the development of this plan we actively sought input from companies to shape this so it is relevant to the industry’s needs and challenges,” Lewis-Gray said.

“Prior to the engagement process we commissioned a key piece of work with the mining sector strategy experts VCI Consultants to identify the key drivers impacting on the industry into the future.”

Lewis-Gray said technology would become an even more important asset going forward.

“Miners’ increased appetite for digitisation, automation and robotics to improve productivity and automate mine operations, will increase demand for quality data and data analytics,” she said.

“Australia is well positioned with the mining industry knowledge and the capacity to interpret data to provide meaningful knowledge.

“It is important for METS companies to increase collaboration with the sector and also with miners and researchers to ensure better integration of technology into the value chain.

“Miners are challenged by the increase in social expectations and the pressure to reduce their environment and social footprint.

“Australian METS players have a strong reputation and capability in areas such as environmental, safety and mine remediation.”

Miners are still reluctant to innovate. Be the first to be second is a common mantra in the industry.

Lewis-Gray said the lack of pilot facilities for researchers and METS companies to trial and prove their products was something that had to be addressed.

“METS Ignited will be working on the scope of living labs over the next six months such as virtual or pilot mines to better demonstrate to miners the value-add of METS’s solutions without miners taking on that risk,” she said.

“By developing ways to assist METS companies and miners to work together more collaboratively towards common goals will result in a step-change in the adoption of innovations.

“Collaboration underpins all that we do and our role is to foster collaboration between mining companies, the METS sector and researchers.”