Technological innovation needed to meet global copper demand

A new approach to boosting productivity at Australian copper mines is needed to keep up with rising global demand, according to U.S. technology expert Hal Stillman.

“Big ticket automation is only one aspect of the type of innovation that copper will need to get right if the sector is to successfully tackle issues like efficiency, productivity, supply and environmental performance in the coming years,” Stillman, the director of technology, development and transfer for the International Copper Association, said in his address to the Copper to the World conference in Adelaide.

“In other words, doing things differently.”

Stillman pointed to the root of the problem where government support of mining research and innovation efforts did not go beyond early stage funding.

He believes this leaves entrepreneurs without follow-on investment or critical links to the resources industry.

“Startups generally have found it difficult to partner with large miners to really drive new solutions to upstream problems in processing, energy or water,” he said.

Another problem, according to Stillman, is that there is a mismatch between corporate venturing and managers who are focused on short-term profitability in mining. This disincentivises innovation and development of new technologies.

“What is needed is a professionally managed fund that is independent of the mining industry cycles,” Stillman said.

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