World Gold Conference highlights innovation

Executive Chairman  Northern Star Resources, Bill Beament, presented a plenary session at the World Gold Conference. Photo by Anthea Auld Photographer
Executive Chairman Northern Star Resources, Bill Beament, presented a plenary session at the World Gold Conference. Photo by Anthea Auld Photographer

Global mining challenges, innovation and collaboration were key themes at the World Gold Conference in Perth, Western Australia, in September.

The three-day conference, which followed the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s (AusIMM) MetPlant 2019, covered all aspects of gold mining, including exploration, geosciences, mining, metallurgy, environment and related themes.

Opened by industry leader Mick Erickson, Senior Vice Present AngloGold Ashanti, the conference was a joint venture between AusIMM, the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM).

CEEC Director and Newmont Goldcorp Group Executive Global Projects Technical Engineering, Simon Hille, presented the first keynote on day one, on the topic of unlocking sustained value from gold megaprojects. Megaprojects are ventures with more than $1 billion in capital spend and a mine life greater than 20 years.

Quoting Newmont Goldcorp Senior Vice President Projects Ivan Mullany, Mr Hille said four elements were required to unlock sustained value in megaprojects: intelligent project management, collaboration, disruptive innovation, and new capital investments.

He said a survey of 130 top mining executives identified innovation as a growth strategy, which illustrated its importance. He said innovation was critical, along with collaboration, for developing megaprojects.

Innovation and technological transformation were also closely linked to sustainability.

“As an industry we need to develop megaprojects differently. Going forward, we need to embrace innovation,” he said.

Mr Hille said that while industry was still ‘paying for technical mistakes of the past’, it needed to be more collaborative and embed innovation in projects by changing opinions and value metrics.

“We have to be far more open around how we tackle the big challenges. We need to work together to find those disruptive technologies that will solve industry challenges. We need to rethink the way industry works together.”

Mr Hille said project and budget blowouts were contributing factors to the sharp drop in capital investment in mining.

To create sustainable projects with robust operations that provide shareholder value, operations needed to bring the right technical minds in early.

“Technical choices must be made early and be accurate. Principally, companies must then ‘stick with it’, to avoid project delays,” he said.

CEEC also sat in on a plenary session titled ‘Underground mining: we are just scratching the surface’, presented by Executive Chairman of Australian gold miner Northern Star Resources, Bill Beament.

Mr Beament said the company was a business first and a mining house second, and spoke about macrotrends affecting business - such as sustainability and the focus on underground mining.

He said challenges to the industry included exploration risk, deep and complex ore bodies, skills shortages, and increasing power needs for deeper mining pumping and ventilation.

“The industry must greatly improve our underground productivities, yet we are still mining in the same way as 40 years ago,” Mr Beament said.

He was hopeful that innovation and technology would solve the challenges, suggesting that partnerships and shared learnings without restrictions on IP, real time analysis and automation, and in-situ ore extraction were ways of moving forward.

The greater incorporation of alternative energy sources such as solar, as well as heat recovery and battery storage, was also critical to progress the industry, he said.

Click here to learn more about the conference or access proceedings.