Maximising mining’s potential and sustainability
An interview with Mikko Keto, Mining President, FLSmidth
Before the year 2021 came to a close, International Mining Editorial Director Paul Moore had the chance to catch up with Mikko Keto, FLSmidth Mining President but also incoming CEO effective January 1, 2022 with the imminent departure of Thomas Schulz, who has guided the company for more than eight years, a period where its growth in mining has been marked, not only in revenue terms but also in influence. Schulz introduced MissionZero, FLSmidth’s sustainability programme aimed at significantly reducing emissions across the global cement and mining industries by 2030, which was one of the first initiatives of its kind among mining technology suppliers when launched in 2019 – Keto will now help the company to unlock its full potential.
The interview began with a discussion of whether mining companies are much more today looking at operations from a pit to port perspective. Keto said he had seen a trend for miners to move pit, plant and freight management operations to the same location, which is significant as it allows the whole process to be managed in a more streamlined and realtime way. On the topic of miners now looking to use the latest technology available from the outset rather than them having to be convinced to do so – he said this was particularly the case with process optimisation and control, allowing some big wins with minimal disruption. In FLSmidth’s offer this includes technologies like LoadIQ which automatically determines the optimal mill load for all grinding conditions and sets the load target in real-time.
FLSmidth has also been moving steadily towards becoming more of a lifecycle partner to mining customers rather than just an equipment supplier. An an example it now has lifecycle service agreements with major copper miners in both Chile and Peru, which cover everything from maintenance services to reliability engineering. On the topic of customer partnership, the pandemic has not changed customer expectations on overall performance and solutions delivery – FLSmidth says it has had to be agile with regard to logistics for example, and rerouting heavy equipment shipping where necessary or even using air freight. While site access has been more limited, FLSmidth has a huge local service and support network that has been able to continue to meet customer needs; that said a lot of use has been made of digital solutions to permit remote installation in direct contact with FLSmidth experts.
Then the big question of whether sustainability can also mean profitability or if allowances need to be made? Keto said customers are now looking at all the different flowsheet options for mines, whether it be lithium or gold or copper, to see which option is both the most productive but also the most sustainable. He doesn’t see a conflict between KPIs and sustainability – if anything the two go hand in hand as any process optimisation to save energy and save water will ultimately benefit the bottom line as well. Anyway financial institutions are increasingly requiring that mining companies comply with ESG targets.
Last but not least – the integration of thyssenkrupp’s mining business – which is set to complete in 2022? Keto pointed out that it brings vast mining experience and competence plus about 250 core product lines with a particular upside in areas like In-Pit Crushing and Conveying (IPCC) and High Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR). Both of these markets FLSmidth is already involved in but the combination with thyssenkrupp will really create an unequalled team in terms of installed base, capability and range of solutions. IPCC and HPGR also happen to be crucial in helping mines reach their sustainability targets as well.