Mining learns lesson from other industries

The 4th International Future Mining Conference 2019 chairman Serkan Saydam believes other industries offer lessons that can prop up the sustainability of mining operations. Australian Mining writes.

The mining sector is going through impending changes that are competing for the attention of industry leaders.

Lower ore grades, a lack of human resources and social performance issues are just some of the topics being discussed in the sector.

The greatest challenges are to improve social acceptance, the use of resources such as water and energy, and the removal of people from harm’s way, according to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) professor Serkan Saydam.

“The industry worldwide is suffering from rising costs and extreme mining conditions as deposits are getting deeper or steeper,” Saydam tells Australian Mining.

“This poses geotechnical challenges, when operations are constrained by increasing social, environmental and health and safety standards.”

But the industry plays a key role in the future of community engagement and social performance. Mastering these challenges will help mining companies achieve sustainable mining practices, with the integration of modern technology presenting a significant opportunity.

The automotive industry is a good example of where operating costs have been slashed by a whopping 30 to 45 per cent, thanks to its adoption of new processes and systems, according to Saydam.

The UNSW professor Serkan Saydam.

“Why doesn’t the mining industry achieve this?” the professor, who will chair the 4th International Future Mining conference 2019, asks.

“Mining technologies have changed incrementally. They are linked to new technologies, different and changing orebody characteristics, market forces, issues of social licence and self-imposed improvements in safety performance.

“As many internal and external factors remain to pressure mining companies, there is a growing need for more than just incremental change.”

Saydam urges the minerals industry to embrace new approaches to mining systems and technologies that will deliver “quantum step-changes” in how minerals are extracted and processed.

In addition, environmental management planning to reduce emissions will help integrate economic, ecological and social systems in future mining, according to Saydam.

Future Mining 2019, which will be co-hosted by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and the University of New South Wales, will invite delegates to explore green mining, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and robotics, and space mining in dedicated sessions. These sessions will be also followed by panel discussions.

Top researchers and industry leaders will then present ideas on how to use emerging technologies to overcome the sector’s impending challenges.

“The conference has a quite unique structure. Presenters will provide pitch speeches and each session will end with panel discussion. Our world will be different in the future, so the way of efficiently extracting mineral resources will also be different,” Saydam says.

“The normal economic environment for mining has been either a boom or a bust.

“The minerals industry must learn to improve and/or adopt scientific and technological knowledge, and emerging technologies from other disciplines; enhance business capability and growth; and build effective and engaging strategic global partnerships.”

Saydam also emphasises the industry’s need to foster a research and development (R&D) culture, including more research to achieve safe and clean water for society.

He says the industry should create new job opportunities, including higher-degree qualified jobs, to implement mining’s new technologies and ensure the industry is sustainable in a rapidly transforming technology landscape.

While the industry continues to grapple with these challenges, Future Mining 2019 plans to offer solutions to address them from other disciplines to mining.

The conference will feature multidisciplinary researchers and academics, not just from the mining industry, but also manufacturing, telecommunication, space and services.

This year’s keynotes and panellists include eminent academics from Australia, the United States and China; research organisations’ representatives from CSIRO and Jet Propulsion Laboratory or NASA; and leaders from BHP, Rio Tinto and OZ Minerals.

“The speakers line-up is exciting. I am looking forward to creating an impact with this new format of the conference, and excited to see the multidisciplinary audience interact and discuss the problems facing the future of mining,” Saydam says.

Future Mining 2019 will be the fourth edition of the conference since its inception in Sydney in 2008.

Future Mining 2019 will return to Sydney on November 19–20. For more information, visit futuremining.ausimm.com. 

This article also appears in the October edition of Australian Mining.

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