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Australia’s mining innovation ecosystem

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The unrivalled success of Australia’s mining industry has long relied on technology and innovation to improve safety, drive greater productivity and deliver increasingly sustainable outcomes.

Australia’s minerals industry is essential for modern life and will contribute the raw metals needed for the global transition to the net-zero economy. Solar photovoltaic plants, wind farms and electric vehicles are more minerals intensive than their hydrocarbon equivalents. Companies mining other mineral commodities continue the quest to reduce emissions in extraction and use.

The mining industry is also an increasingly critical driver of broader industry development and innovation.

Productivity enhancing technology not only assists in discovering new resources, but has the capacity to make existing resources more economic with the same level of inputs, and improved data and artificial intelligence are making operations more efficient. Technology is also removing people from potentially hazardous situations, helping predict and model operational changes that improve safety, and enhance training so that the workforce is better equipped to perform work safely.

At a site by site level, electrification and fuel switching are reducing emissions in support of the industry’s ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

These technology driven improvements are occurring throughout the mining lifecycle from exploration, development and operations to closure and rehabilitation. Technology is even enhancing commodity marketing and trading by improving integrity in transactions and supply chains.

The innovators driving this transformation include miners, the mining workforce, the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector, original equipment manufacturers, university-led mining research institutions, Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and CSIRO-led research collaboration.

A catalytic and external benefit of the technology transformation is a highly skilled workforce. Australia’s minerals industry has invested significantly in training and reskilling the workforce to fully utilise new technologies in mining.

The MCA has played a leading role in identifying the future skills challenge and miners and original equipment manufacturers are rising to the challenge to develop this workforce of the future.

While some roles will be replaced, many new highly skilled, highly paid roles are being created and other roles are being enhanced by technology. This technologically-advanced workforce is building new capabilities for Australia.

The success is tangible.

Since 2005, Australia’s mining industry has invested more than $30 billion in research and development, sitting in the top four (occasionally top two) of all industries. Australia is a top three jurisdiction for mining patent filings, and four Australian universities are in the top five world rankings for mining engineering.

Australia’s mining industry is embracing technology-led innovation at an unprecedented rate, but this transformation cannot be taken for granted. It requires coordinated action and a shared commitment by industry and government to development and maximise the substantial opportunities to secure Australian mining’s place as a global leader.

Tania Constable

CEO, Minerals Council of Australia

Look out for our upcoming publications The Digital Mine and 30 Things: The Futurist Edition on our website www.minerals.org.au, which covers Australia’s mining innovation ecosystem including the evolution, the innovators and the technologies that have contributed to the success of Australia’s mining industry.

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