Tag Archives: Capital Markets Day

Growth and innovation on the agenda, Epiroc’s incoming CEO says

The timing of the announcement of Helena Hedblom becoming Epiroc President and CEO might have caught investors off-guard, but the actual appointment is no big surprise.

The news came just 12 days after the company held its second annual Capital Markets Day where Hedblom and Per Lindberg, current President and CEO, gave investors an update on the progress the company has made on its strategy since starting operations under the new brand in November 2017.

Hedblom, who currently heads up the mining and infrastructure divisions for Epiroc and is due to take on the top role from March 2020, has been a major part of Epiroc’s Group Management team since it was formed. Her ties to Atlas Copco, meanwhile, date back to 2000, with her roles including Head of Research and Development and General Manager for rock drilling tools business Secoroc and, then, becoming President of Atlas Copco Rock Drilling Tools.

Epiroc has launched a number of new initiatives in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification spaces since the end of 2017, and Hedblom has been instrumental in all of these, spelling out the business case to investors, making sure the engineering capacity is available and taking all of the technical questions that may come Epiroc’s way.

With mining making up 76% of order intake for Epiroc in the nine months to the end of September – and the company keen to build on its leading position in the sector – it is logical for someone with Hedblom’s experience to take the top job following the successful establishment of Epiroc under Lindberg.

On a conference call today following the announcement, Ronnie Leten, Chairman of Epiroc, said current company head, Per Lindberg, had achieved the goals set for him by the board and that Hedblom had been given a new mission: to achieve “higher levels” of growth for Epiroc.

That is a bold statement considering the company has achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the period from 2015 to 2018 through a number of organic and inorganic investments, and a 14% CAGR in the 12 months to end-September 2019. This is all while retaining a comparatively high average operating margin of 18.3% and 20.1%, respectively, over those same timeframes.

Hedblom, speaking to IM shortly after that call, explained the growth mission given to her by her incoming Chairman.

“It’s a combination of organic initiatives within the company, as well as inorganic initiatives,” she said. “But, of course, within that, the big technology shifts with automation, digitalisation and electrification give us an opportunity to help our customer gain safety, productivity and energy benefits. That is a big focus area for us.”

She is also looking to grow the company’s aftermarket business – which already accounts for 65% of revenue – explaining: “This is where we can make a difference with our customers and really be a productivity partner. It also gives us resilience across the cycle.”

Looking to the “initiatives”, specifically, she said there could be some organic product developments to close some “gaps we have in the portfolio”, but also strengthening “our presence… in some areas where we don’t have the market reach today”.

While these growth initiatives will most likely be in markets the company has already deemed to be core, she said all divisions within the company had a roadmap looking into opportunities that are “adjacent to core”.

One area of Epiroc investment Hedblom was keen to talk up was R&D, which in recent years has enabled the company to retain a leading position in the likes of autonomous surface drilling, battery-powered underground vehicles, and mine digitalisation and automation.

“We have a good level of investment in R&D,” she said, adding that, at the moment, it is heavily skewed towards automation, digitalisation and electrification.

“Bear in mind that 65% of our revenue is in the aftermarket and we are already investing 2-3% of revenue in R&D – that represents quite a big investment on the capital equipment side,” she said.

She concluded: “That (R&D investment) is needed. For me, innovation is key. That is how we stay ahead of technology leaders in all of these areas.

“I expect R&D investments to stay at this level, and this is extremely important to creating sustainable growth for the company over the long term.”

Nornickel reveals ambitious technology – as well as production – plans

Technology looks like playing a pivotal role in Norilsk Nickel’s ambitious growth plan to boost its mined ore volumes at the renowned Taimyr operation, in Russia.

After revealing a target to up production to 30 Mt/y by 2030, from 17 Mt/y in 2017, at its Capital Markets Day in London this week, IM spoke with First Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Sergey Dyachenko, to find out how technology was helping the company achieve this target.

Dyachenko listed off several impressive feats the company has achieved in the past 18-24 months that would pave the way for this growth.

First off, Norilsk has digitised nearly all of its operations as part of its Technological Breakthrough program – aimed at designing, planning and operational controls of its mining activities.

It has shifted its mine planning from a shift-based system to an hourly scheduling program, is carrying out dynamic simulations of mining activities on an as-needed basis to visualise the effects of mine plan changes, has installed proximity detection and collision avoidance systems (with a 50 m personnel detection range) at all of its underground mines, and has commissioned a real-time dispatch system to optimise its operations.

With digital centres built or being built in all of its major mining hubs, and Wi-Fi rolled out across its underground operations, all of its processes are now very much ‘connected’.

Dyachenko said these initiatives were already paying off, with a 7% increase in nickel-equivalent production between 2017 and 2019, partly attributable to the digitisation and automation programs. He could also point to a productivity increase – the output of nickel equivalent per employee rising 15% over this same timeframe.

While the company has come a long way since it started its Technology Breakthrough program in 2014, it is ready to leverage more technology over the next five years (and beyond).

Dyachenko spoke of transitioning from dynamic 3D mine models to the use of digital twins for mine plan optimisation at all of its mines and, excitingly, plans for a “fully autonomous smart digital mine” at its Skalisty nickel-copper-PGM underground project at the Polar Division, Norilsk’s key production asset on the Taimyr Peninsula.

Skalisty, at more than 2,000 m below ground, will be the company – and one of Russia’s – deepest underground mines. This fact is making Norilsk reconsider its normal mine development and operation route.

The company is currently engaged on a prefeasibility study at Skalisty, however it has already carried out 966 m of shaft sinking to bring the #10 ventilation shaft down to 2,056 m, and plans to start horizontal development at the project next month. Completion of the main shaft is scheduled for 2021.

“We have a task to make our Skalisty underground mine an autonomous mine,” Dyachenko said, explaining that the depth and accompanying temperature that comes with it made it a difficult environment to operate in.

Added to this, Dyachenko said the “demographics” of the future workforce and the need to provide an “interesting environment” at Skalisty made it a necessity to at least relocate machine operators to a control room on surface.

Norilsk will not be working on this ‘task’ alone. In addition to using consultants for the prefeasibility study, it is has also engaged an OEM with experience of automating underground operations in Mali and Sudbury (Canada) at this stage.

“We want to have a very clear concept…and find out the economic impact and best configuration for the mine,” Dyachenko explained.

The Norilsk COO said engaging such an OEM at this point in the mine development process also provided the manufacturer with the required time to “customise” a solution that fitted the Skalisty orebody and infrastructure.

“Not all of this will be off-the-shelf,” he commented on the equipment and infrastructure required for Skalisty, adding that battery-electric vehicles could also come into the mining equation.

Speaking of time, Dyachenko said the company expected to recover the first ore from development at the deep mine in 2023, followed by first “production” ore in 2024.

The new Skalisty mine is expected to eventually ramp up to production of ~2.5 Mt/y.