Strong Mining Partnerships Abound for Australia and New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a market often overlooked by Australian mining suppliers. Widely recognised for its natural beauty, unique marine life and tourist appeal, New Caledonia’s economy has in fact been powered by mining since nickel was first discovered in 1864.
Now boasting numerous large-scale mines and process plants, New Caledonia is the 4th largest producer of nickel in the world. Sitting right on our doorstep, New Caledonia’s mining industry faces many of the same challenges as ours, and therefore, it is critical that we forge stronger partnerships to share our experiences and collaboratively discover solutions to several pressing issues.
Austmine is playing a key role in developing the Australian METS sector’s relationship with New Caledonia and has been coordinating mining missions and collaborating with local organisations since 2013. This relationship has uncovered many areas that our mining suppliers can assist the local mines, including de-bottlenecking processing operations, predictive and preventative maintenance and optimisation of safety equipment and procedures.
Most recently, in June, Austmine was invited to a Network Week in New Caledonia by the Association Maintenance Durable (AMD). This is an industry association that leads the strategic direction of the maintenance industry in New Caledonia and advocates the importance of the mining industry and supplier sector to government. Since signing an MOU with AMD in 2013, our partnership has fostered closer links between our respective mining communities.
The recent Network Week with AMD comprised of workshops focused on innovation strategy, education exchanges and training priorities in the Pacific, along with networking events to uncover key issues for local businesses. During the week, we also toured the major mining and processing operations: Vale’s Goro Nickel; Koniambo Nickel (49% owned by Glencore) and SLN Doniambo (Eramet).
The week continued to develop the great appetite for business relationships between Australia and New Caledonia, and we found many key areas where greater collaboration will create shared value. This includes:
- A significant skills challenge faced in both nations. This includes attractiveness of the mining industry for graduates, experienced management and technical personnel choosing competing industries and a break down in communication between tertiary institutions and industry.
- Mounting pressure on social license to operate and the need for mining to co-exist with a delicate marine ecosystem. Similar to Australia, waste management strategies and procedures are major focus areas, with intensive mineral processing techniques requiring the use of chemicals and substantial energy. In response to this challenge, Vale has developed the world first Project Lucy dry stack tailings project at their Goro Nickel site.
- The impact of digitisation on mining operations from pit to port. New Caledonia has taken a great interest in key technology projects in Australia, including the use of automated equipment, data analysis and ore tracking and measurements. With Australia’s METS sector a global leader for technology and innovation, opportunities will arise to work on the digital transformation journey of New Caledonian mining companies.
Moving forward, Austmine will work with AMD to exchange knowledge on the aforementioned challenges, along with providing opportunities for our members to build partnerships in the New Caledonian mining industry. This will include a visit to Australia by AMD and another Austmine mining mission to New Caledonia to allow first-hand experience and insights for Australian businesses.
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