Thursday, 4 June 2020
Perth Mining Innovation Roadshow Review: Michelle Ash, CIO, Barrick Gold - Disruption is Here: How do we harness it?

Perth Mining Innovation Roadshow Review: Michelle Ash, CIO, Barrick Gold - Disruption is Here: How do we harness it?

Austmine recently held our Mining Innovation Roadshow in Perth where we welcomed Michelle Ash, Chief Innovation Officer at Barrick Gold for the opening keynote address. Michelle put together an intriguing presentation that forced attendees to ask themselves “Disruption is Here: How do we Harness it?” Within this theme, she explored the challenges we’re facing from new market entrants and community expectations, increasing the rate of adaption and change in mining and transforming our thinking about innovation from technology to business models and processes. 

You can presentation slides from our Innovation Roadshow in the Member Portal

Michelle began by looking at the accelerating rate of change in the world. This is at its fastest level since the Renaissance era in the way that we develop technology, harness it and use it to influence society. It is no surprise that as an industry we’re struggling to cope with this change and what it means for our teams and businesses. As leaders, we need to start thinking about disruption and prepare for an accelerating rate of change.













Technological impacts on mining is not just about mining and industry 4.0. A lot of technology is being driven by the consumer market and adjacent industries where money is being invested in innovation. We must take ideas and knowledge from here.

Michelle then considered our future challenges and likely scenarios for mining transformation and sustainability.  

  • Will it be acceptable to have people at the coal face?
  • Will people look at tailings dams and question that?
  • Will the amount of water & energy we use be acceptable?

She continued to press home that these challenges are far more real than what is sometimes perceived. Communities are already telling mining companies, we don’t want your tailings stands and we don’t want your jobs. Apple have said they will stop using freshly mined minerals in their products and have taken actions to follow this. Rio Tinto and Apple have recently collaborated on zero carbon aluminium which was thought to not be possible. Changing consumer expectations and behaviours are forcing powerful corporations such as Apple to make these decisions.













Mining innovation was examined against these challenges, looking at three phases of improvements:

  • Operational improvements – having assets work as efficiently, as hard and as fast as you can;
  • Digital technologies –utilising the IoT in operations;
  • Apply the innovations – not just technology, but different ways of thinking and working.

In applying innovation, 5 major challenges must be solved:

  • Global Orebody Intelligence – enable us to find and understand deposits faster and cheaper;
  • Autonomous & electric mining – redesigning extraction to minimise economic, social and environmental impact;
  • Precision Extraction – methods to reduce the amount of waste removed from the ground;
  • Symbiotic Development – redefine social contracts with communities, government, businesses and partners;
  • Disruptive Technologies – Reinvent the way we create and derive value from technologies such as blockchain or quantum technology.

Michelle finished by urging the audience to rethink the way we see innovation. It is not just about the technology, it is about behavioural changes and the business model. When we engage with innovation, we need to have a good management process with structure to make it comfortable and effective.

Currently when we move forward we try the easiest things first, but we should change our thinking to what are the most difficult problems and how can we solve them?

She also pointed to two other requirements of innovation. It must be:

  • Viable – really good business case
  • Desirable – people have to want to use it

Michelle finished her address with the statement: “The disruption to our industry is coming – our challenge as leaders is to prepare ourselves, our teams and our organisations to deal with the rate of change and deliver the rate of change to accelerate. Accelerating our rate of change is critical.”

You can see Michelle’s and other slides from our Innovation Roadshow in the Member Portal

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