Mining is poised for growth, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Tracking the Trends report.
The latest issue of key mining trends, the 10th edition in the series, focuses on how the Australian, and global marketplace, is navigating this expansion by identifying strategies companies can use during the ongoing industry recovery.
With this growth, rapid change will follow, Deloitte explained, adding that a common modern-day theme — digital technology — would be at the core of this transition.
The industry has progressed from the need for miners to understand and develop digital projects to how they ‘bring digital to life’ at their operations.
This is the opening trend for Deloitte in 2018, and one that offers an overbearing theme for many of the points that follow it in the report.
Digital may be an ongoing trend in the current mining environment, but Deloitte points to the importance of effectively using the data these technologies create, including the ability to organise, manage and process it.
Deloitte Australia national mining leader Ian Sanders described digital technology as an important competitive advantage that miners must capitalise on.
“If you look at the majors, yes, they have the programs of activity up and running. They are looking at their investment dollars, particularly how they invest them and the competitive nature of these investments,” Sanders told Australian Mining.
“Digital is one of those competitive elements — how much do they actually spend on automation? How much do they spend on the back office digital? how much do they actually look at their ecosystem of suppliers and customers, government, other stakeholders and co-mingle that investment within digital is really important?”
Deloitte’s report explained that transitioning to the future digital mine typically started by focusing on core mining processes with the goal of automating physical operations and digitising assets.
It believes the real value from digital technology comes from unlocking the insights within data by rethinking the way information is generated and processed.
Many major miners have been on the front foot in this area, according to Deloitte, with the report using the example of a global company that identified latent system potential across its pit, rail and port network by effectively using data.
However, the report adds that many mining organisations are not yet using all the data they are capturing from operational systems, or are still struggling to improve reporting from legacy systems.
Despite the challenges, Sanders said the full spectrum of mining companies was now looking at digital technology projects — the majors, mid tiers, juniors and services companies.
“I think you have to. Firstly, to be relevant, and secondly, to survive,” he said. “Whether you are a major, junior or mid-tier you are absolutely thinking about it because everyone is thinking about efficiency and digital is a core element of becoming more efficient.
“There are some mid tiers and juniors which are very active when it comes to digital and technology. It’s not as though they have been left behind, it’s how can they extract the investment dollar to best leverage digital within their organisation?”
Technology isn’t the only disruptor in mining — there are also emerging commodities changing the landscape of the industry, according to Deloitte’s trends.
The so-called tech metals, or Deloitte’s commodities of the future — nickel, lithium, cobalt and graphite — are another leading element of change in mining.
Deloitte Consulting mining leader David Cormack said it would have been hard to believe 20 years ago that these commodities would be an affordable way to power batteries.
“But, today that is the reality and a potential growth opportunity, particularly with the emergence of electric vehicles,” Cormack said.
“And although asteroid mining for rare metals still sounds like science fiction today, the market potential in the not-too-distant future could be huge. If mining companies want to get ahead of the trends, they need to delve deeply into emerging market disruptors.”
Deloitte’s 2018 trends include: Bringing digital to life; Overcoming innovation barriers; The future of work; Shifting perceptions; Transforming stakeholder relationships; Water; Changing shareholder expectations; Reserve replacement woes; Realigning mining boards to drive transformation; and, Commodities of the future.