Coronavirus has forced the cancellation or postponement of major events worldwide, with limits on travel and the size of groups allowed to congregate within one area. The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) is not letting this stop the 2020 Lithium and Battery Metals Conference.
This August, AusIMM will bring together experts, executives and leaders virtually, with the biggest change to the conference’s agenda not being coronavirus-related, but an expansion.
For the past two years, AusIMM has hosted lithium-focussed conferences in collaboration with Murdoch University and AusIMM Perth Branch Committee. In 2020, the event will expand to the Lithium and Battery Metals Conference and include discussion about the wider battery metals sector.
Key industry speakers will share their knowledge of the conference themes: investment risks and economics; exploration and geology; mineralogy and hard rocks versus brines versus other; mineral processing and extractive metallurgy; downstream processing, batteries and capacitors for energy storage; battery metals, recycling, environmental and safety; and data science.
Conference co-chairs professor Colin Roberts and associate professor Gamini Senanayake are excited to bring lithium and battery metals stakeholders together digitally, running as close to a normal conference as possible.
“It will be safer and more socially responsible to attend a digital conference during the current COVID-19 pandemic as it eliminates the environment for virus transmission to occur,” they tell Australian Mining.
“The digital conference will operate in the same format as traditional conferences with the keynotes and other selected speakers presenting to the audience.
“The audience will be invited to participate, asking questions and comments and sharing ideas via the internet.”
To keep the conference as realistic as possible, delegates will be able to enjoy virtual plant visits, such as Talison Lithium, and webinars, all from the comfort of their own homes or offices. Poster presenters will have an opportunity to record a short audio presentation accompanied with the poster to communicate their findings to the delegates.
Also like in-person conferences, delegates will have the opportunity to participate in online networking opportunities and contact exchange.
Despite the difference to AusIMM’s usual events, Senanayake says there are many advantages to digital conferences.
“Digital conferences avoid travel time and costs and give more exposure and contact time on real issues, as more people such as investors, exhibitors, managers, industry professionals, academics, researchers and higher degree research students can participate,” he says.
Deemed an essential service by the Australian Government, mining has not seen the complete shutdown that other industries have, but as Roberts explains, operations have still been impacted around the world.
With many office employees transitioning to working from home and mine site workers taking on changed rosters, staying connected and informed of movements within the industry at events such as the Lithium and Battery Metals conference is arguably more important than ever.
“COVID-19 has impacted mining operations, perhaps dropping the demand and price of mineral commodities and impacting individual mines directly requiring changes in occupational health and safety to prevent the spread of the virus amongst employees,” Roberts says.
“However, mine sites and mineral and metallurgical processing plants are continuing with minor changes to fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) rosters, indicating that the metallurgical production slowed down only temporarily.”
The lithium and battery metals space has had its challenges long before coronavirus, due to an oversupplied market impacting prices.
However, during the past couple of years, lithium and other battery metals have experienced an upturn, as demand for electric vehicles, battery storage infrastructure and other major applications such as alloys, glass, ceramics and lubricants continues to grow.
“There is strong evidence for continuous growth in the lithium and battery metals industries in the future,” Senanayake says.
“Lithium and other battery metals and materials will be utilised in construction of large-scale battery storage infrastructure.
“Batteries and capacitors will facilitate increased integration of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar into power grids and to increase reliability and efficiency of power grids.”
These technologies that use lithium batteries and flow cell batteries will not only increase the demand for lithium itself, but other commodities, including vanadium, cerium, zinc, uranium, nickel, cobalt, bismuth and tin. Due to this flow-on effect, Roberts says that the Lithium and Battery Metals Digital Conference will serve a larger community than ever before for the 2020 event.
Batteries are the most well-known use for lithium but there are other applications in which lithium is useful for, such as lithium bromide in adsorption chillers, used in air conditioning or generator systems.
With all of these exciting developments in the lithium and wider battery metals industry, the 2020 Lithium and Battery Metals Digital Conference is going to be an event not to be missed by stakeholders in the sector.
With more opportunities to tune into a wide range of speakers from around the world, including the opportunity to engage in panel discussions and ask speakers live questions, Roberts and Senanayake believe that the event will be as interactive as ever, despite being held virtually.
“The 2020 Lithium and Battery Metals Digital Conference will be more convenient to attend as you can access the conference anytime from anywhere in the world if you have access to internet connection,” they say.
“Online conferences enjoy higher levels of active audience participation than face to face conferences and are more environmentally friendly, with significantly lower carbon footprint than traditional conferences.
“COVID-19 seems to challenge us, but undoubtedly it also offers new opportunities for us to find new ways to efficiently connect with the globe.”
The Lithium and Battery Metals Digital Conference 2020 will be held digitally on August 18-19 and 25-26. For more information, visit lithium.ausimm.com.
This article also appears in the June edition of Australian Mining.