Embracing Digital Technologies and Innovations
By Dr Penny Stewart, CEO, PETRA.
There is a very important aspect to innovation and embracing technology that is often not well understood. In technology circles, its called ‘crossing the chasm’, a term first used by Geoffrey Moore in his book “Crossing the chasm”. I believe the mining industry is very good at innovating and achieving early adoption, but like all industries, we also struggle to ‘cross the chasm’ to the ‘majority’. How does the industry cross the chasm to achieve sustained value creation from scalable digital transformation? Adoption is key, and as those who have read “Crossing the chasm” will know, just because a pilot is successful, it doesn’t mean the ‘majority’ will embrace it.
Engaging the majority in digital transformation is very different from engaging the ‘early adopters’. Those companies that can engage their majority through culture will have a massive advantage over their competitors. For example; mining companies adopting digital twin models and optimisation solutions have a significant advantage when it comes to generating profits from complex difficult to mine ore bodies. PETRA has partnered with Maptek to develop workflows that supports adoption by the ‘majority’ – in many ways this is about making these advanced technologies look like business as usual!
I think we are starting to see the emergence of an elite group of miners who move quickly to leverage existing technologies to profit from complex and difficult ore bodies. Acquiring brownfield assets in this way is a brilliant strategy to increase shareholder value. We have already seen Newcrest’s acquisition of Red Chris Mine in Canada as a technology play, and “believe Red Chris has the potential to be transformed into a Tier One ore body through the application of our technical expertise.”
I believe this is just the beginning of technology plays in the mergers and acquisitions space, and the value to shareholders in mining companies being able to rapidly adopt existing technology to transform difficult ore bodies to Tier 1 assets has the potential to add billions to the balance sheets of those companies.
In terms of sustainable mining, those companies that are able to minimise risk across their operations through integrated systems to monitor safety, fatigue and environmental impacts will have a significant competitive advantage over their competition because they will find obtaining their licence to operate much easier than those companies with a poor safety or environment track record.
I would like to see deliberate strategies to prioritise digital applications for safety – for example AI that removes people from harm. Once people see digital being used for good in mining, I think people will be more likely to embrace new technologies. Whilst grass roots innovation opportunities to create value are the way to go for identifying initiatives, I do think there is a need to take a strategic lens to what is prioritised.