Technology and innovation were primary topics at the Austmine 2015 conference in Brisbane on May 19 and 20 but the challenge presented to the mining sector was to enhance communication and collaboration. Delegates were told that without collaboration Australia risks losing its competitive advantage as a mining industry leader.
This challenge for mining education providers, METS (mining equipment, technology and services) firms and mining companies was raised by a number of speakers. It was generally recognised that most miners have been doing very well for a long time but now the industry has hit difficult times, it is hard to get them to look outside their own silo.
Austmine was pleased with the response to the biennial event with almost 50 exhibitors and around 1000 delegates over the two days while the informative conference program attracted many positive comments. A number of Austmine members showcased their innovations and technology during the conference and exhibition.
Rio Tinto Australia managing director Phil Edmands set the scene early on the first day when he outlined the importance of METS to the mining sector but also spoke about some of the challenges facing the industry in Australia.
The Rio chief told delegates that there are many competitors for Australia’s METS sector around the world but its competitive advantage is technology and innovation. He said that stability also used to be an advantage for Australia but other jurisdictions were becoming more stable. London was now a major competitor with its strong knowledge and finance bases.
“The METS sector is being held back by a low level of collaboration within the sector at local and regional levels but particularly state-by-state. There is also a lack of collaboration with the education system and the mining sector,” he said.
In order to overcome communication and collaboration issues within the sector and with the education and mining sectors, he said a METS innovation hub was needed. “Innovations, technologies and information from METS companies would come to the hub which would then serve as a one-stop shop for mining companies. Miners could access the hub to determine whether there is technology that is of interest to them.
Phil Edmands also said collaboration was needed to help improve the image of the industry. The image is poor particularly in coal which is constantly being attacked yet is the only current realistic and cost-effective answer to the growing demands of emerging nations.
“Education providers, the METS sector and mining companies need to work together to get people to see and understand the good side of the industry,” he added.