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In the last five years, the mining industry has jumped leaps and bounds – embracing innovative new technologies and adapting to new solutions. COVID-19 acted as a catalyst for even greater change in the industry, rapidly shifting priorities to digitise the industry faster than ever before.
Saptarshi Dasgupta, Head of Energy and Resources at TCS ANZ, explores the future of mining in Australia and how digital transformation is helping the mining companies prepare for ongoing market volatility.
Posted: August 2021
Q: What is the state of mining in Australia, and how does it compare globally?
When compared to other countries around the world, the Australian mining sector is leading in relation to innovation, thanks to autonomy and digital adoption. As a leading industry for the nation, mining has benefited from ongoing investment from leading brands to introduce more productive and effective process models. These new ways of working not only deliver safety to workers but answer the increasingly important questions around sustainability and efficient management of resources.
Q: As with most industries, mining was heavily impacted by COVID-19 and this accelerated investments in technology and prioritising digital solutions. What were the biggest priorities for mining businesses in Australia?
The limitations caused by COVID-19, including limited movement of workers and disruption in supply chain, put increasing pressure on industries to support business continuity with new solutions, many of which were digital. This rise in the adoption of technology is down to the ability of these solutions to remove geographical barriers, while also increasing visibility of the mining process from start to finish.
The adoption of technology in mining isn’t new. There has been an ongoing shift to more virtual platforms and automation in the mining industry to support activity and in turn respond to the known pain points within the industry, including safety concerns and environmental impact. The uptake of solutions during COVID-19 has only strengthened the existing digital foundations of these businesses and reinforced their role safeguarding the industry in the future through more transparent practices.
Q: What is driving these changes in the industry?
There are multiple reasons for these industry changes. From a top line business perspective and a broader economic standpoint, digital transformation is taking place in almost all industries for the same reason – increasing productivity, streamlining workflow and processes, as well supporting more cost-effective ways of working.
For the mining sector specifically, technology can deliver a higher level of safety for field workers. The automation of the discovery process allows businesses to more clearly assess mining sites and create plans for activity, including solving potential issues, before having any of the employees on site. This process can also help analyse the resources, such as water, needed throughout the process and map out ways of working that cause the least impact to the ecological landscape of the mines. Additionally, the benefit of using digital solutions as part of these processes is that the data produced can be used to meet compliance and regulatory requirements.
Q: We’ve seen more innovation in the last five years in the mining sector than in the previous 50; what is the next biggest challenge for the industry?
As the mining industry evolves, so will the way it leverages technology. With growing focus on sustainability, digital solutions may be the answer to safeguard the sector through new, less invasive ways of working. Similarly, growing use of automation and AI within the field mining processes could help to change the narrative around safety and in turn encourage talent to explore a career in the sector.