As the world’s largest mining event, MINExpo INTERNATIONAL is used as an industry barometer for the health of the sector. While this year’s event will be a little different given the impacts of COVID-19, the anticipation continues to build for an in-person gathering that will highlight the biggest and best mining has to offer.
Ahead of this year’s event, sponsored by the National Mining Association (NMA) and due to take place on September 13-15, in Las Vegas, IM put some questions to Jeffrey Dawes, MINExpo INTERNATIONAL 2021 Chair. Dawes is also VP of Komatsu’s Global Mining Business Division and President and CEO of Milwaukee-based Komatsu Mining Corp.
IM: How will this MINExpo be different to previous editions? How are companies planning to ‘open up’ their exhibits and presentations to the widest audience possible considering COVID may restrict some of the in-person international attendance seen in previous years?
JD: MINExpo offers the mining industry the unique opportunity to experience, in person, the newest mining equipment and talk directly with the technical experts behind the most innovative technology and solutions. NMA has done a great job adapting plans this year as COVID restrictions have evolved, so they were prepared for a very different experience if need be, but fortunately it looks like we will be able to have a fairly normal show experience, albeit from a North American perspective – we will be missing some of our international friends who cannot join this year’s event. Part of what has always made our industry great is a strong sense of community, so it will be great to be able to get together in person after such a long time.
To accommodate our friends and colleagues who won’t be able to make the show in person, exhibitors this year have plans to utilise the latest in virtual technology to showcase what will be at the show. Exhibitors will also be able to upload product information, videos and other materials to the online directory, which will be available and open to anyone for a year after the show. Finally, the Opening Session will be live streamed.
IM: What will be the big innovation themes at the event and what do these themes say about the future direction of the mining industry?
JD: Digitalisation, electrification and automation will be the big innovation themes this year. Full enterprise optimisation can only be achieved by connecting tasks, processes, systems and people across the value chain. Solutions that leverage digitalisation, electrification and automation are the key to that full enterprise optimisation. They also play a crucial role in creating sustainable systems that support society’s growing needs in the most environmentally responsible ways.
IM: In a general sense, what positive impacts do you think COVID has had on the mining sector’s innovation/technology uptake? Has it accelerated the rate of innovation through necessity (remote working, increased HS&E considerations, shift to cloud-based network infrastructure, etc)? Is this likely to shine through at MINExpo in terms of what companies are showcasing and talking about?
JD: COVID really gave the mining industry a chance to reflect on its goals and take a deeper look at the tools now available to help it reach those goals. I think it also helped us gain a better understanding of the importance of aligning our business objectives – to extract the minerals needed by society – with society’s need for us to do that in the most sustainable, efficient and least intrusive ways possible. I’m certain that the products and solutions presented by the exhibitors at MINExpo this year will centre on the innovations and technology available now and in the near-term future that will help mines meet both their own and society’s needs.
IM: How do you see Komatsu’s contribution shaping/influencing the event? Are your solutions likely to be the ‘talk of the show’?
JD: We think so, yes. This year at MINExpo, Komatsu will focus on the power of smart technology and connected systems, the freedom of interoperability on an open platform, and the equipment and solutions that will help our industry move forward toward a more sustainable future. I’m particularly looking forward to sharing our newest haulage concepts, which are designed to help meet our customers’ needs for autonomy and the drive toward zero emissions. We’re also excited to give attendees their first in-person look at our newest surface blasthole drill, with 122,000 lb (55,338 kg) of pull-down force, the ZR122. Also, our newly branded WE1850 Gen3 wheel loader with switched-reluctance hybrid drive technology, with a bucket capacity of 60 tons (54 t), and our latest offerings for underground hard-rock and soft-rock operations.
Ultimately, at Komatsu we believe in providing our customers with the technology, solutions and flexible support they need for the lifecycle of their equipment and mining operations. Our customers need a reliable partner they can trust with whom to invest for the future of mining. We aim to be that partner.
IM: Aside from being a topic of discussion on the stands and in the conference rooms, how will sustainability be on show at MINExpo? Will this be the most ‘sustainable’ MINExpo yet in terms of organisation, emissions, etc?
JD: Mining has always been an essential part of keeping modern society moving forward. As we say, if it’s not grown, it’s mined. As an industry we have to focus on how to evolve to continue to meet those needs sustainably. The mining industry is already finding new ways to extract the minerals needed to meet the requirements of the world’s more energy conscious and environmentally friendly future. I am sure that many of the exhibits at this year’s show will showcase those new sustainability-focused solutions.
IM: Are you able to provide any preliminary expectations of attendee numbers?
JD: Varying country restrictions – and the US’ own restrictions – are obviously making this a year unlike any other, placing unusual limitations on attendance. However, we were pleased to have nearly 90% of our 2020 planned exhibitors re-book for this year and new exhibitors are booking space every day. We’re looking forward to welcoming representatives from 32 countries as both exhibitors and attendees. We hope to see even more attendees register as vaccination rates continue to rise, case numbers fall and an increasing number of countries lift travel restrictions as evidenced by recent changes in Canada.
International Mining is a media sponsor of MINExpo INTERNATIONAL 2021