Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Innovation Isn’t Just About Technology
Austmine Limited
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Innovation Isn’t Just About Technology

David Scutt, Director Mining Technical Solutions, Enaex

The word “innovation” comes from two simple linguistic roots meaning “into” and “new.” But if you dig deeper into the etymology of that word, you’ll find it’s not actually about creating something new. It’s more about changing something that was already there. 

Most of the recent conversation in the Australian mining industry centres on new technology: How it will create a more efficient mining process, how it will make things greener and safer, and how it will change the nature of the workforce. There is a mixture of excitement and trepidation as radical new innovations, such as driverless haul vehicles and robotic drills, move closer to wide-scale adoption.

But the current pressure points on our industry (depletion, market volatility, environmental issues) are driving systemic change, and it goes deeper than the technical methods used to extract and process ore. If we’re honest, the surge in new technology is part of a broader dialogue around innovation – one that includes work cultures, community relationships, social license, and long-term career prospects in mining.

Innovation is talent acquisition and retainment

It’s unrealistic (and incorrect) to suggest that every aspect of mining culture should be overhauled; but it’s impossible to deny the importance of talent acquisition and retainment now and in coming years. As new tech roles open up within mining and METS companies, the interest of younger generations will be piqued; but it will take more than cutting-edge machinery and software to bring them in.

In short, careful attention must be paid to stereotypes and stigmas that drive negative perceptions around the industry as much as who we choose to have in our teams. A genuine, cohesive and supportive culture that focuses on building both the business and the industry within which we work are all important facets of innovation and help to ensure we’re still attracting new people into mining and retaining those who continue to thrive. Essentially, this is a commitment and responsibility that belongs to us all.

Innovation is workplace culture

Are mining and METS companies seen as inspiring and desirable places to work? If not, we need to innovate this area of the mining industry for existing team members and future talent. Plenty of innovative policies have already been put into place, and while not all of them will fit with every organisation, it’s worth putting ideas on the table.

A good example is Newtrax, the Canadian company specialising in IoT solutions for efficient underground mining. Newtrax gives employees the opportunity to be involved in AI-related projects, even if their expertise and job description do not involve AI. Not only does this open the door to unconventional ideas, it nurtures a collaborative work culture and links every employee, regardless of their role, to the company’s most innovative work. Inclusion, collaboration, and work-life balance are three important aspects of workplace innovation.

Innovation is people-centric service models

For mining and METS companies, commitment to innovation is also driven by people-centric service models. Davey Bickford Enaex is well-known for our Daveytronic® blast initiation systems, and our commitment to R&D keeps us at the forefront technologically. However, it’s the element of service and the sharing of knowledge that solidifies our reputation as an innovator.

This involves local subsidiaries, implementation specialists, and on-site blasting consultants (DBE Global Technical Solutions) who provide custom-tailored blast configurations on site. Being innovative entails a dynamic commitment to the success and empowerment of partners around the world.

Innovation is comprehensive

The need for wide-scale innovation in the mining industry does not take away from the great traditions and innovations of the past – but the impact of short-sightedness, and the operational inertia of contentment, has been felt around our industry in a very real way. A responsible approach to the future involves getting to the roots of innovation so that every aspect of our industry is nourished by that mindset. As it turns out, those roots are more about people than anything else.

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