Manish Chawla, IBM’s Global Managing Director for Energy and Natural Resources has declared the industry ready to move to a new chapter – from experimentation to true transformation – taking random acts of digital and applying speed and massive scale. Addressing delegates at the 6th IMARC conference in Melbourne, Chawla said this new digital phase is critical to ushering in a new workforce, enhancing productivity and addressing the fact that “stock markets/investors/millennials still don’t ‘like’ mining.”
“Miners have a critical role to play in addressing the awareness gap between the brand perception of mining and the value of mining, in particular for the younger generation who represent the future investors and workforce,” Chawler said. “To do this, they need to become more consumer-centric and more brand-savvy. As there is no real alternative to the primary supply of these essential commodities, miners need to clearly articulate the essential role that they play – and will play – in meeting existing and emerging consumer needs. And digitisation and its democratisation is critical in enabling this outcome.”
Chawla told the conference “difficult problems can only be solved by competitors coming together” and says this next push towards industry-wide technology platforms will require new levels of openness, innovation and collaboration. As an example, he highlighted IBM’s current partnership with RCS Global, which uses blockchain technology to “track cobalt from industrial, responsibly mined cobalt in Congo across the supply chain from mine to smelter to battery manufacturers to Auto OEMs.”
That “culture of innovation,” Chawla said, is also about using data to deliver more intelligent workflows, whether it be helping geologists analyse vast amounts of exploration data much quicker or tracking products from mine to end buyer to improve efficiencies and address social responsibility. He warned though, the embedding of technologies will require a more agile, diverse and multi-disciplined workforce. “We expect AI and automation will change 100 per cent of jobs – not necessarily replace them, but definitely change them,” he said. He added that most executives admit their organisations and countries are not yet prepared for the re-skilling that’s required.
“From a recent IBM Study of 1000 Chief Human Resource Officers across industries, it is clear that skills are on the top of the agenda for all CEOs,” he said. “But, skills availability and quality are in jeopardy: The half-life of hard skills continues to shrink (now estimated at 3-5 years), while the time it takes to close a skills gap has ballooned 10 times in just 4 years.” Chawla described data as the “new natural resource” but says scaling it and working collaboratively is the key to progress.
“This will create a lasting impact – when we change the way people do their jobs to find better ways of working, and in the progression of the mining industry to close the gap between mining’s brand and the essential value mining delivers to us sustainably.”