At the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) 2015, Andrew Logan, Technical Director at Newcrest Mining delivered an insightful presentation on Mining Innovation in the Technology Stream organised by the AusIMM.
Andrew kicked off with a familiar quote attributed to Albert Einstein that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. He noted that here in Australia, the mining industry used to be good at innovation in many ways. Andrew was the first at IMARC 2015 to make a point that became a consistent theme over the three days; the question with regards to innovation isn’t how do we find something new, it’s how do we get our mojo back?
Modern mining faces many new challenges, including mega scale pits, such as Escondida, or remote harsh conditions, such as those faced by Newcrest in Canada.
Andrew took a quick look back at the history of innovations in the mining industry over the last 50 or so years, pointing out that processing has seen significantly more developments over the last 50 years than open pit mining, including flotation chemistry in the 50s, process modelling and pressure filtration in the 80s and 90s, and core mineral scanners in the 21st Century. Andrew looked to the future of innovation in processing from 2020 onwards, listing technologies and innovations he saw coming to the front:
Early waste rejection
Online Conveyor Analysis
Coarse flotation and gravity
HydroMet Next Gen
Rock MRI style holography
Remote nuclear power plants
Andrew commented that innovation needs courage and tenacity, as so many ideas fall short. Much of the focus on innovation in mining is on the technical or operational side of the industry, but significant challenges exist also in the economic, skills and social license to operate areas. Andrew called on the audience to take a new view on these challenges, by making the old new again and breaking out of the one size fits all perception. Collaboration will be key in this, with the industry needing to try more innovations together, rather than in isolation. In particular, Andrew noted that miners need to spend more time looking at both their processes and their orebodies and then sharing those details in context with both researchers and suppliers. Understanding what the core problems are, working through the problem definition together and sharing insights will help our sector move forward in leaps and bounds. Within this new approach, Andrew felt role playing in teams will be a big new design concept.
Andrew concluded by urging miners, METS, researchers and government in the room to leverage our historical track record in innovation to derive more value out of what we’ve already created, to design new modern mines and be bolder about starting out with a step change mine.
We can do this through adaptation of existing technologies, simple but smart systems design, collaborative design, the courage to try more, and the determination to try this together as a sector.