Three clear themes emerged at the recent Austmine 2017 conference: the need for innovation, the benefits of having connected systems and the data-driven approach changing decision-making in the resources industry.
Innovation will help Australian mining and METS companies drive competitiveness in a world facing high competition in commodity markets.
The pace of innovation in the next five years will equal all that preceded it in the past three decades, according to Chris Salisbury, chief executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, who delivered the keynote address on the first day of the conference.
With the industrial internet of things (IoT) rapidly becoming a reality for miners and a new wave of innovation sweeping the industry, companies need to get on board to remain competitive.
Companies are still facing relatively static commodity prices, meaning technology and automation will be a key enabler of more productive assets.
Salisbury made the comments at Austmine 2017 Mining Innovation Conference and Exhibition, which was held in Perth 22-24 May at Perth Convention Centre.
Salisbury said Rio Tinto’s building blocks for the mine of the future involve investment in machine automation, remote operations and improvements in data capture.
However it wasn’t just Salisbury touting the importance of innovation at Austmine. There were a chorus of people talking about the various ways it will have an effect on productivity, competitiveness and safety in their fields.
Michelle Ash, Chief Innovation Officer at Barrick Gold, said the cost and availability of technologies is rapidly changing operations.
She said the rate of change and the cost to implement things like underground video conferencing or robots were coming down quickly. Ash noted that industrial robots once cost $2-5 million, but are now available for around $7000 and can be programmed remotely on a tablet.
From a safety point of view, robots make eliminating the need to have human workers underground possible. Removing people from danger zones will make mining considerably safer.
Connected systems, where different vendor software systems can talk to one another are seen as crucial in underpinning a new wave on innovation.
Peter Cunningham, Director of Digital Operations at Teck Resources identified pillars for digital operations. To create digital operations you need systems thinking along with strong vendor relationships.
When you have the right technology in place, it can integrate across open systems that adhere to standards and ultimately allow for higher orders of activity. Cunningham said when looking at new products, they should be measured against supportability with other products in the system.
Setting the bar high, Cunningham said you know a vendor is offering a valuable platform when it can evolve into something you never imagined or it reduces time required for future innovations.
Connectivity is also not just in the software space. Digital operations need to work close to operations for agile and innovative decision making.
Miners have never had a problem with the volume of data they collect. The challenge has always been in the capacity to garner information from it. Michael Freyney, Executive General Manager for Siemens said the future of decision-making would revolve around obtaining actionable insights from data.
With connected systems handling the enormous volumes of data and cloud services taking advantage of high resolution and long-running data sets, decision-making is changing.
Luke Davey, Project Director from Snowden said being able to analyse the data shows you the cause of a problem, rather than just the symptoms.
We took time out at Austmine 2017 to chat to Austmine’s CEO, Christine Gibbs Stewart, on The GIM Channel podcast. Listen to her insights direct from the conference.
Many of the topics discussed at Austmine resonated with the acQuire team in attendance. At acQuire we believe data is one of the most important assets in a company. That’s why we develop software to ensure you can rely on quality data for your business. We have confidence our long-term connectivity strategy provides an ideal environment for effective decision-making and supports future innovation in the mining industry.
If you want to find out more about how acQuire’s software can help you make confident, data-driven decisions, get in touch with us.