Tuesday, 7 July 2020
Chris Cawood, OceanaGold - Event Write Up
Austmine Limited

Chris Cawood, OceanaGold - Event Write Up

On 21st February 2018, Austmine was delighted to be joined by Chris Cawood, Chief Innovation Officer for OceanaGold our first Smart Mining networking event in Melbourne for 2018. The event was sponsored by Airobotics who provided an insight into how the use of automated Drones in mining is really taking off.

Chris gave us his innovation strategies and processes for implementation at OceanaGold over the next 12 months. This provided some insight as to how METS companies can participate in the Automation process in the mining industry.  Chris has over 25 years’ experience in the resources industry across oil and gas, and mining. He has been with OceanaGold as the CIO for the last 4 years. Prior to that he has had an extensive history across the industry. Before moving to Melbourne and OceanaGold he held a number of technical roles at BHP in Sydney, the Netherlands and Perth. 

OceanaGold  is based in Melbourne and has traditionally been a New Zealand company with two operating Gold mines there. With the addition of interests in two operations in American, one in Argentina,  the Philippines and Laos/Myanmar, the firm is now considered a mid-tier miner, producing 570 Oz of Gold. This brings challenges and opportunities for continuous improvement of the mining operations.  For example, the Didipio Mine in the Philippines has significant water challenges and is transitioning from an open pit to underground. OceanaGold also see their future containing more underground operations, driving the desire for automation to remove the miner from the hazardous underground environment. 

Chris shared the companies vision values and people statement. With a clear vision of being the gold mining company of choice! They intend to achieve this with ensuring that safety and Innovation are their number one focus in everything they do. The business is strongly focused on continuous improvement, which can only be achieved through Innovation in order to reach their goals of safety and efficiency.

Automation is driving a lot of the innovation across the mining industry for example Rio has announced the delivery of its 1 millionth ton of ore from autonomous mining operation.

Chris was able to demonstrate that the culture of change is important, but it must be guided by the governance structure of the business. Innovation brings risk and technology risk must be managed by the board and the leadership team to gain the advantages of innovation without risking people or production. For this reason, Oceanagold are fast followers of new technology. Also, in being a mid-tier company they can be agile fast followers, therefore, they rely heavily on strategic collaboration with suppliers. 

These technology collaborations and fast follower principles allows OceanaGold to be successful in its innovation.   

All new ideas are categorised to allow the evaluation of risk and impact on the mining operations. By analysing the risk operationally and safety compared to the return, OceanaGold  can make assessments of what innovations to bring forward in  order to ensure the risk is minimised and returns are maximise.

The layering of technology change allows the firm to move forward over time minimising the risk at any particular decision.  This is transformational change not revolutionary change. OceanaGold will add more automation over time to slowly bring with it a fully autonomous mine. This includes digitisation of equipment and people, fleet management, sharing of data resources amongst platforms allowing precision autonomous drilling, minimising down time and allowing for metal accounting of resources. 
Underground communications will be a vital aspect to achieve this goal. The current technology is to use fibre optic with WIFI nodes and extenders. As equipment suppliers are continuing to add features to be able to communicate with their equipment in real time, new challenges are being presented, such as, how to allow equipment suppliers IT access to the OT environment safely and protect the systems. These and other challenges will be the next issues facing the miners. 

Austmine members can download Chris’s full presentation for members only via the member self-service portal

This article was written by Austmine’s Business Advisor, Dale Thompson who is a part of our Entrepreneurs’ Program. Austmine's Business Advisers help ensure businesses get the advice and support they need to improve their competitiveness and productivity. The primary focus is on providing access to the best advice and networks to solve their problems, as well as access to financial assistance. There is no cost associated with the business review they will provide you. To learn more about this program and to find out if your business can participate, please email Dale.Thompson@Austmine.com.au

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