Tag Archives: Melbourne

Miners still need social licence for their autonomous vehicles, Wilson says

Mining companies embracing automation and technological innovation must be also be aware of the possible implications for their social licence to operate, according to a social performance specialist.

Dr Ceit Wilson, who has more than eight years of professional experience in addressing the social and development challenges of the extractive resources industry, says there are risks around the future of technology and employment, especially from a social perspective.

Dr Wilson will address the issue in a presentation at this year’s International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne in October – Australia’s largest mining event.

Issues around social licence to operate and sustainable mining principles will be a key focus for the three-day conference with a dedicated workshop and two conference sessions covering the topic.

Environmental health and safety, social licence, sustainability, staff retention and skills development are also among the topics set to be discussed in the free to attend Collaboration Theatre, one of five concurrent conferences at IMARC.

“I intend to use my presentation at IMARC to bring attention to the fact that the while the mining industry is positively benefiting from automation and technology innovation, we need to address the question of how technological change will impact the host communities in which they operate,” Dr Wilson said.

“This is somewhat of a paradox given that gaining and maintaining a ‘social licence to operate’ is one of the key challenges currently facing the sector.

“We know it is no longer enough for mining companies to simply meet the formal obligations of an ‘environmental licence’ to extract resources.

“They are increasingly expected to behave responsibly and make a positive contribution to the communities in which they operate.

“One of the main ways mining companies seek to deliver this social value to regional communities is through the provision of local employment and business development opportunities.

“The concern is that automation technology may disrupt this positive trend. We are already seeing major mine operations in Western Australia and Queensland replacing human operators with autonomous trucks and robotics, and shifting control centres to the capital cities, miles away from where actual mining takes place.

“And yet industry has been silent on the potential risks that these future technologies may pose for communities and broader stakeholders.

“Disregarding these risks may leave companies ill equipped to respond to social impacts when they occur, with potential consequences for their relationship and trust with communities.

“Any company that is genuinely committed to protecting their social licence to operate will need to carefully consider and reassess how their projects will continue to deliver social value to the regional communities in which they operate if, as a result of automation, local employment and procurement opportunities are no longer as readily available.

“Maintaining a social licence will require balance and attention to alternative ways in which social value can be delivered.

“This may include a consideration of alternative livelihood or benefit sharing models, or a greater focus on the transfer and sharing of industry’s knowledge of technology through training and education programs.”

IMARC will be held from October 29-31 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

Future-proofing mineral processing plants

As minerals processing, digital plants and effective plant operations become more important for mining companies, Australia’s largest mining event is set to examine the challenges of processing plants of the future.

Finding intelligent solutions, future-proofing grinding circuits and embracing the opportunities of digitisation will be discussed at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne next month (October 29-31).

Ahead of the conference, Sandvik Lifecycle Development Manager, Simon Adams; CRC ORE Chief Executive and Managing Director, Ben Adair; and Weir Minerals Global HPGR Product Specialist, Bjorn Dierx, discussed the issues in a special IMARC webinar.

All agreed mining companies faced increased challenges as ore stocks depleted, forcing them to move to more remote locations and dig deeper in a bid to maintain recovery rates of past years.

Dierx, who will deliver an IMARC presentation on dry air classification technology to remove the need for water, said: “Our customers are under immense pressure to reduce energy consumption, use less water and reduce carbon emissions.

“Overall, as commodities are depleting, companies are making large investments in new plants to dig deeper, crush more ore and at remote locations with limited access to power and water to achieve the same recovery rates as the past 20 years.”

He said about 3% of global energy consumption was attributed to crushing rock so greater efficiencies in comminution would make a big contribution to reduced emissions.

For Adair, efficiencies are available now in existing operations.

“It’s important to optimise and run your equipment to the best of its ability,” he said. “Most sites I visit that’s simply not the case. We are a little bit delusional if we think we are there at the moment in a digital sense in optimising various grinding circuits.”

He agreed limited access to water was a critical element.

“It’s interesting water was mentioned. That is one of the major challenges for the industry. It simply won’t have access to potable water and it will have to head rapidly to a closed-loop situation otherwise the costs will be extraordinarily prohibitive,” he said.

“Most of our work is done in the sorting space. . . It’s patently ridiculous and it has been for the past 15 to 20 years that we mine something and stick it through various expensive process plants when in fact 99% of it has no value whatsoever.

“If you are looking at the mine of the future, it is going to be about exploiting heterogeneity at the mine face as opposed to deliberately destroying heterogeneity and looking for homogenous feeds for downstream processing plants.”

The digital transformation at the plant and processing level offered opportunities for miners, with Adams saying the ability to collect and analyse data was crucial.

“If you can have digitisation and automation that moves towards cognitive behaviour, once you get those algorithms down you can have far more efficient plants operating through that process,” he said.

“We have to turn data into knowledge; looking at power consumption and efficiencies and getting to the cognitive stage where we can foresee failures or predicted failures and we can capture them early and shut down in an organised fashion.”

Dierx said digital transformation presented a big opportunity for the industry to attract new people from traditional software programmers and those in the gaming industry to work in the mining industry.

“The big iron ore miners, if those autonomous devices need to be switched off, they use Xbox controllers to correct them. That’s good news for children of today,” he said.

“From an education perspective, there is still some work to be done. Universities need restructuring to ensure we not only educate traditional operators, metallurgists and process engineers but ensure that understanding algorithms and working with digital tools become standard practice.”

IMARC, developed in collaboration with its founding partners the Victorian State Government of Australia, Austmine, AusIMM and Mines and Money, is where global mining leaders connect with technology, finance and the future. For more information, please visit https://imarcmelbourne.com/

International Mining is a media sponsor of the IMARC event