QME Review: 5 Key Themes
Austmine was recently involved as a supporting partner at the Queensland Mining & Engineering Exhibition (QME) in Mackay. Across 3 days, over 300 exhibitors and thousands of attendees came together at the Mackay Showground for networking opportunities, technology demonstrations and insightful presentations and panel discussions about local and domestic mining industry issues.
Austmine had over 40 members exhibiting at the conference and many more who attended as delegates. We also hosted some key industry discussions at our networking drinks, panel session on Mining’s Next Horizon and CEO Breakfast with Trent Wehr, Managing Director – Mining, Liebherr Australia.
At these events and throughout the week, there were a number of common themes that dominated conversations for METS sector attendees. We explore these below.
Optimism returning to the Queensland Mining Industry
The sentiment at this year’s QME was a stark contrast to the event two years ago, which took place just as the industry was emerging from the bottom of the commodity cycle. Back then, a pessimistic feel gripped many suppliers to the mining industry, with conversations focusing on staying afloat financially, diversifying into other industries, severe cost cutting and laying off staff.
This has turned around considerably and the buzz of optimism around the exhibition booths and networking events at QME was a definitive sign of the current fortunes of the mining industry and excitement about what the future holds. Many of the conversations that Austmine had with suppliers related to winning and fulfilling contracts, hiring new staff and investing in productivity enhancing and value adding technologies.
Generally, exhibitors were happy with their involvement at QME and praised the seniority level and number of industry connections they made throughout. It is definitely an exciting time to be a part of the Australian METS sector.
Attracting and Retaining Talent
Inevitably the ramp up in mining activity also comes with its challenges. The skills shortage faced by both miners and METS, especially in regional hubs such as Mackay, is starting to become more prominent. Recruitment agencies are reporting that roles like drill and blast technicians, boilermakers, mechanical, electrical and heavy diesel fitters, and even geologists are in short supply.
Not only were exhibitors concerned about finding the skills to continue to grow their business, but speakers in the QME seminar series constantly pointed to labour scarcity and diversity as their key challenge. As we know from previous boom and bust cycles, simply raising wages will not solve this problem and will lead to an unsustainable scenario in the industry.
Coupled with the challenge of finding employees in traditional trades, businesses are also aware of their needs in the technology and automation space. With numbers dwindling in mining engineering courses around the country and current re-skilling and training programs unable to keep up with the pace of technological disruption, we must respond quicker to this problem to meet digital demands of the future.
Government Support for the METS Sector
Austmine is helping to tackle the skills challenge collaboratively with our members through the Women in STEM: METS Career Pathway Program. It is great to see the government also supporting initiatives such as this, with funding from METS Ignited, the industry growth centre for the METS sector within the federal government’s Jobs and Innovation portfolio.
Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, has taken a keen interest in the program and was on site during QME to meet with three students who participated in the first round. STEM students Grea Effeney, Yana Babenkova and Maria Teresa Llido all spoke glowingly about the program and the opportunities it has provided them in the METS sector, with one even saying that “this opportunity has changed my life.”
Ms Cash also announced $1.5m in funding for four cluster consortia. These funds form part of the Bowen Basin Cluster Program, a joint initiative with the Queensland Government that brings together METS companies in the region with complementary areas of expertise to solve mining challenges. The QLD government also announced $1.8m in funding for the mining industry, targeting accelerator programs, digital capabilities and test facilities.
Collaboration Critical to the Future of Mining
Throughout QME industry leaders pointed out that working together will produce better results than working in siloes. This means that business models must change to allow for greater communication and connectivity between suppliers and their partners and end users.
In the modern mine site, equipment and technology must be able to communicate with other assets and be utilised to achieve the greatest operational outcomes. Companies that provide a cookie cutter solution, isolated software package or hold tightly to their data will be overhauled by companies focussed on building long-term relationships, sharing information and working with many partners to customise solutions for clients.
At QME it was great to see the mining companies coming back to exhibit such as BHP, Anglo American, Yancoal and Adani. This helps to promote dialogue between METS and miners and facilitates a greater understanding of operational needs and priorities.
Not only is collaboration critical between miners and METS, but it is important that industry bodies and the government connect on pressing issues. Austmine and the Resource Industry Network (RIN) held a Board dinner that helped each industry association to understand the prevalent issues that their members face and are aiming to work collectively on a range of challenges moving forward.
Queensland Strongly Supports the Mining Industry
The local community, key stakeholders and government representatives all spoke positively about the impact that mining has had on the regional economy. The sentiment from media outlets in Mackay was widely contrasted to much of the rhetoric on national broadcasts, with journalists actively participating in the exhibition, interviewing mining industry leaders, promoting the economic contribution of the sector and highlighting the strong advocacy for mining from the regional community.
The event also attracted many people from the local community to discover the latest technologies in the mining industry and to learn more about the capabilities, job opportunities and rewarding careers that the Australian METS sector provides. Community support like this will be important in attracting skilled labour to the sector and drowning out the voices of the detractors to the mining industry.
The sense of community was highlighted at the Queensland Mining Awards Gala Dinner, where the industry joined together to celebrate the achievements of standout businesses. Congratulations to Austmine members Control Systems Technology, Quarry Mining, Unearthed, Mine Energy Solutions and Downer for taking home awards.
Well done to the team at Reed Exhibitions for a terrific QME 2018.
Have a look at the image gallery below with some of the pics from the Expo! Thank you to our member, Davey Bickford Enaex for their images.