Tuesday, 27 October 2020
Austmine Smart Mining Event Presentation Review: Santi Pal, Rio Tinto
Austmine Limited

Austmine Smart Mining Event Presentation Review: Santi Pal, Rio Tinto

Austmine was excited to be joined by Santi Pal, Head of Surface Mining Centre of Excellence, Rio Tinto for our recent Smart Mining Networking Event in Perth. Santi is responsible for shaping the future of Rio Tinto’s surface mines. In his role, he manages the group standards and frameworks of the surface mines, including major risks associated with geotechnical and tailings, and water storage facilities.

Santi’s presentation topic was ‘Mining in the Next Decade.’ He outlined Rio Tinto’s vision of mining’s future, discussing the changes that are set to occur in the broader industry and how this translates into their key priorities and strategies.

Santi began by noting the profound shift that is occurring in the mining industry and what the influencers of this are, including:

  • The rate of change is accelerating
  • The ore body is getting more challenging
  • Closure continues to be a major challenge and will be for a long time
  • A High level of global uncertainty, including trade wars and an unstable geopolitical environment

In light of these major challenges, Santi acknowledged the need to discuss innovation and technology adaptation in mining. Outlining how mining organisations must transform their structures and cultures. He pointed to four key pillars embraced by Rio Tinto to help support them with this: Agile, Visionary, Inclusive and Adaptive.

Santi then moved on to outline the projects carried out at their Surface Mining Centre of Excellence in Perth, comparing them to similar work at their Underground Centre of Excellence in Brisbane and Processing Centre of Excellence in Montreal. These hubs are collaborative networks of complex, high value initiatives that are critical to the long-term goals of Rio Tinto.

The priority areas for surface mining are:

  • Tailings management
  • Water storage facilities
  • Next generation of mining technology

Santi indicated the Bingham Canyon mine as a fantastic example of what their future looks like, which is the extraction site for their Kennecott operations in Utah. 

Health and safety is also a major focus area and this is driving Rio Tinto’s fundamental shift towards automation. Santi believes automation will physically remove people from harm, monitor technology to collect data and manage major risks, help with maintenance (e.g. modular maintenance) and reduce exposure to hazards.

Looking ahead at another example of Rio Tinto’s future mines, Santi highlighted the recent investment approval to develop the Koodaideri site. This project will be a world-class facility and the most advanced mine they have ever built, leveraging technologies such as digital twinning, robotics and automation.  

Continuing the discussion surrounding the building blocks to becoming a next generation mining company, he stressed the need to have an agile organisation that supports the future of work, and a workforce that supports the future vision. In line with this, Rio Tinto have recently partnered with TAFE in Western Australia to create a nationally recognized qualification in automation, investing $2m in collaborative initiative. This will help to build a pipeline of skilled workers for the mining industry, amidst a time where there are significant difficulties in attracting people and vacancy rates are high. 

Santi finished his presentation by stating that it is imperative to change the negative perception of mining. Some of the initiatives discussed in his presentation aim to do this, but it is a challenge that the industry must work on together.

Austmine would like to thank Santi for joining us at the event and giving such an insightful and thought-provoking presentation.

Austmine members can access presentation slides in the member portal.

See more upcoming events here.

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