With global miners expecting the tough operating environment to continue, the industry needs to turn to innovation and technology to drive productivity and efficiency, attendees at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne heard on Tuesday.

Mitsui Australia vice president Wendy Holdenson said it was a challenging time for the industry, but the company remained optimistic and had a strong innovation focus. “While there has been some improvement in commodity prices, we believe it will be some time until we see sustained recovery.

“One topic of crucial importance for us is to drive innovation by connecting information, ideas, businesses and in fact nations. New technology will deliver the next round of productivity and efficiency. This includes the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications controlling whole systems.”

As an example, Wendy Holdenson said Mitsui was partnering with GE to adopt its Asset Performance Management system – a suite of cloud-based software solutions that delivered real-time data from machinery.

CITIC Pacific Mining chairman Zhang Jijing told the conference the company continued to progress its $10 billion Sino Iron project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, which represents China’s largest overseas resources investment.

He said the company remained excited by the project’s potential to not only cater to future steel demand from China and India, but also reduce carbon emissions from operations.

The forecasts came as METS Ignited launched the 2016 Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) 10 Year Sector Competitiveness Plan – a strategic vision to improve export growth of Australia’s diverse mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

METS Ignited Chair Elizabeth Lewis-Gray said the Australian Government had tasked METS Ignited to work with industry and develop a sector plan that would identify challenges and opportunities across to increase the competitiveness and accelerate innovation across of Australia’s METS sector.

“The METS 10 Year Sector Competitiveness Plan represents a snapshot of innovation and global resources challenges facing industry and suggests how the Australian METS sector needs to positon itself in the future to better compete on a domestic and international scale and increase its footprint,” she said.

The plan was developed through engagement with industry and with strategic input from partners – Austmine, CSIRO, the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Queensland Department of State Development, VCI and the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA).

More than 2500 mining leaders, policy makers, financiers and other experts from more than 57 countries have converged in Melbourne for IMARC, Australia’s largest international mining and resources event.

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