Discussion Groups Deliver Collaborative Responses to Mining’s Greatest Challenges at Austmine’s Newcastle Mining Innovation Roadshow
Austmine Limited

Discussion Groups Deliver Collaborative Responses to Mining’s Greatest Challenges at Austmine’s Newcastle Mining Innovation Roadshow

On Friday 16th March Austmine hosted their Mining Innovation Roadshow event in Newcastle. This brought together mining and METS professionals to discuss innovative strategies and technologies that will improve our industry. The agenda featured speakers from Vale Indonesia, Glencore, Bengalla Mining Company, First Quantum Minerals and more.

Amongst the keynote presentations, Austmine created a group discussion session that is designed for open communication and collaboration on key topics that are vital to the improvement of the mining industry. These were:

1.       Workforce Diversity Leading Innovation – Facilitated by, Ross Carter, Business Advisor, Austmine

2.       Innovation for a Purpose: Breaking new solutions into the supply chain – Facilitated by, Will Vandenberg, General Manager, The Simulation Group

3.       Looking at the Role IP plays in Innovation Collaborations – Facilitated by, Dale Thompson, Business Advisor, Austmine

4.       Borrowing from Different Industries to Create Innovation in Mining – Facilitated by, Dallas Wilkinson, President and General Manager, Minova & Director, Austmine

5.       Cyber Security: Vital for any digital strategy – Facilitated by, Marianne Cummings, Business Advisor, Austmine

6.       Creating Innovative Business Models and Partnerships – Facilitated by, Peter Clarke, General Manager, Industry Engagement, METS Ignited

The groups were steered away from lamenting about problems that are perceived in the industry, but instead to call upon participants to become an active voice in finding solutions. To frame the session, three key questions were asked:

1.       What’s the current state of play/where are we now?

2.       Where do we want to be that would make a difference to our industry?

3.       How are we going to get there?

At the end of the hour, each discussion group was asked to deliver their findings back to the room.


Workforce Diversity Leading Innovation

This discussion group focused on how diversity in the workforce can lead to innovative thinking and solutions. They looked at various forms of workforce diversity, from gender and race to age and professional experience.

What is the current state of play? The mining industry is conservative and that there isn’t yet a culture of encouraging diversity across the industry. However, it was acknowledged that there has been a big shift in recent years and that although there is still a lot of change to come, the ball has started rolling. 

Where do we want to be? The obvious answer was “to be more innovative”! One of the key cultural factors that the group would like to see change is the mining industry’s risk averse attitude, of always being the “first to be second”.

How are we going to get there? The primary answer was to bring in a much larger knowledge base, especially from other industries and to attract the new generations. The argument for this, was to avoid doing things the way they have always been done. The group suggested that as an industry we needed to start changing our image and interactions with the wider Australian professional communities to attract both new talent and alternate experience. Some of the solutions they discussed was offering more internship programs like the Austmine Women in STEM METS Career Pathway Program and encouraging HR to step away from requesting industry knowledge as a pre-requisite for employment in mining.


Innovation for a Purpose: Breaking new solutions into the supply chain

This topic fostered a deep dive into how METS and Miners can work together to ensure that creative and “outside the box” technology and thinking can find a place in existing supply chains.

What is the current state of play? The group found that whilst a number of new and innovative solutions have already broken into the supply chain, such as drones and automation, there needs to be better identification and cooperation throughout the whole industry and supply chain. They looked at how METS often drive innovation, but often don’t understand the needs of the end-user or communicate their value proposition effectively.

Where do we want to be? The group pointed towards creating a supply chain system and procedures that allow for clearer and more direct communication between miners and METS.

How are we going to get there? Different initiatives for miners and METS interaction were discussed, modelled from existing programs such as the Bengalla Supplier Improvement Program that Austmine and the Entrepreneurs’ Programme is facilitating in Muswellbrook. The group identified that platforms such as this can lead to greater understand and risk-sharing relationships. METS also made the admission that collaboration and partnerships are still under-developed within the supplier space, and a more open mindset needs to be adopted.


Looking at the Role IP plays in Innovation Collaborations

In exploring issues surrounding innovation and collaboration, the inevitable intellectual property issue always arises.

What is the current state of play? There is generally an attitude to protect IP at all costs, but the group believed that some unique technology needs to be protected whilst other products and solutions may be already known. They acknowledged that the current cost of IP is high and talked about the complexities around the difference between knowledge and IP, along with identifying IP in relation to a product. However, they assessed that in the last 30 years there has been a massive shift in collaboration, which is improving the IP sharing landscape along with IP licence agreements.

Where do we want to be? The position that the group discussed that we would like to be in is one of appreciation and respect for IP. Where there are opportunities for open sharing and open sourcing where relevant, but also protections where the IP is unique. Ideally, companies who are willing to share the most should also gain the most.

How are we going to get there? Education was highlighted as critical. Organisations need to work with all parties in the supply chain so that they can understand what is important to protect and what should be shared.


Borrowing from Different Industries to Create Innovation in Mining

Many sources of mining disruption have shifted from other industries and this group discussed what further technologies and systems mining can leverage to improve performance.

What is the current state of play? Whilst mining is a world-leader in some spaces, there are too many situations where mining can see other industries optimise procedures but are too risk averse to adopt solutions.

Where do we want to be? The group wants the mining industry to be the leader in best practice for all industries, we want to be world leaders in technology and innovation. The group talked about how information shouldn’t be siloed, and that in reviewing the greater pool of knowledge you can find new and different solutions to old problems. Key areas identified where mining should look to other industries included machine learning, marketing, logistics, data analytics, artificial intelligence and finance management.

How are we going to get there? The group identified two major areas that we as an industry need to work on to make this happen: education and culture. We must create a culture in our current workforce and management teams of innovation and next level thinking, that encourages a natural response to look outside of mining to see what else is possible. Benchmarking must also be used to identify where it is that we are continuing to be world leaders in best practice, but also finding the places where we need to improve.


Cyber Security: Vital for any digital strategy

After numerous talks with industry leaders, Austmine has identified cyber security as a key area that METS need further education on. Whilst it is a topic that is currently only spoken about by subject matter experts, it should be considered by all METS businesses.

What is the current state of play? They noted that with new technology and reliance on instant data sharing there are now more touch points than ever before that are at risk from cyber threats. They said that this will only increase as the industry continues to evolve towards mining 4.0. However, strategies and policies across the whole industry are not yet up to the requirements that are held by other industries or indeed by insurance compliance.

Where do we want to be? The obvious answer is to protect our infrastructure and IP. However, the group noted that some cyber policies can be an inhibitor to sharing data. Therefore, the ideal situation to move towards is one that is secure but that still gives us flexibility and control over collaborations and doesn’t have a large impact on operations.

How are we going to get there? The group felt that there needed to be an overall cyber security philosophy throughout individual organisations and the industry as a whole. That we need to create a culture where cyber policies and practices are treated as every day responsibilities. This would require educating the workforce to the risks and requirements of a cyber plan. Comments were also made about attracting talent and skills from other industries and training up the workforce for effective cyber security implementation. Finally, they discussed compliance and that if collaboration between miners and METS is to be successful, there needs to be an industry certification for cyber readiness.


Creating Innovative Business Models and Partnerships

For mining to be sustainable long-term, business models and partnerships must be grown that foster innovative solutions. Whilst many industry groups are currently encouraging this shift, further change is needed.

What is the current state of play? A number of inhibitors were discussed, including a lack of understanding from METS about identifying key contacts to collaborate with in mining companies, IP considerations for risk sharing, red tape within large businesses, a lack of communication or understanding about mining needs and transitioning

Where do we want to be? The group found that an industry ecosystem must be fostered that encourages the formation of partnerships and collaboration. A communicative environment will be critical to achieving this goal.

How are we going to get there? Knowledge sharing within the industry must be increased, as if greater information was shared about R&D and projects in development, companies could pool resources together and generate results faster. It was also suggested that whilst a lot of collaboration focuses on METS working together, miners can also do the same and share solutions with each other. Test sites and product trials were discussed, whilst further opportunities to have forums surrounding open collaboration was also identified as an avenue for change.

Overall, key themes throughout the groups emerged around intellectual property, diversity within mining and METS companies, better communication and skills from other industries. The next Mining Innovation Roadshow takes place in Perth on 13 September 2018 and will feature similar discussions to further explore conversations on the future of mining.


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