People and Sustainability Top of the Agenda at Austmine 2021 

The Austmine 2021 Conference & Exhibition recently brought together over 1,250 mining and METS sector senior leaders to set the tone for the future of our industry, providing a platform to explore pertinent issues such as sustainability, digitisation, future skills and more. 

To help the industry understand what topics are at the top of the agenda for mining executives, Austmine has put together their top 5 themes emerging from three days of discussion.


1. Valuing your People














Executives outlined their vision of the future mining business, focusing on attracting the best talent and leveraging diverse skillsets across organisations.    

Leveraging the building blocks established across the past 18 months, miners are looking at expanding remote working procedures and changing the nature of jobs to access a larger talent pool. 

Brandon Craig, Asset President Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO), BHP discussed redesigning work to make it accessible for everyone in his keynote address, stating “Whether it’s autonomous haulage, decarbonisation, robotics, remote work, or advanced analytics, we want to connect the best and most creative minds to the opportunities and challenges we face as an industry and change the very nature of the way we work.” 

Johann Reps, Global Technology Manager, Alcoa saw technology as the backbone to enabling new ways of working, presenting their Connected Worker Journey, which leveraged enabling technologies and mobile devices to put information and tools in the hands of multidisciplinary field teams. 

With people being top of the agenda at the conference, METS businesses should consider:

  • Opportunities to develop enabling systems and platforms for workforce management and scheduling across the organisation.
  • How to present data and information so that it is easily consumable and understandable across organisations, and helping to provide context to that data.
  • Establishing communications networks, infrastructure and devices to connect people across the organisation, along with connecting vendors and other parties. 


 2. Decarbonising Operations and Supply Chains










 Sustainability was at the top of the agenda, with mining businesses outlining emissions reductions commitments and mapping out pathways for their achievement. 

In striving to deliver emissions targets, speakers emphasised the need to work collectively and harness the expertise of supply chains to successfully decarbonise. BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale demonstrated this in action during their Charge On Innovation panel discussion. They have come together with Austmine to launch a global challenge to electrify haul truck fleets for large mining operations, representing an opportunity to reduce operational emissions by up to 50%.  

Shaun Chau, Sustainability Managing Director, Accenture, implored the industry to fast-track collaboration efforts to decarbonise mining, commenting “For the supply chain to fully realise the value of this opportunity, we need further participation from government, universities and others, to come together and create pockets of expertise and capabilities…and it needs to start now.”

With these themes in mind, some items of consideration are:

  • Whether your engagement with clients and partners is bringing value to other stakeholders, not just the parties in the transaction.  
  • Are your creating an environment conducive to high-performing cultures in your organisation?
  • How to foster and implement new skills in your business. 


 3. Collaboration is the Key 













 Like the collective approach discussed to decarbonise operations, joint approaches to harnessing capabilities across the value chain were explored to tackle a range of industry challenges. 

Adrian Beer, CEO, METS Ignited discussed the phenomenal opportunity these approaches are creating, observing that the industry is starting to see vendors working together to aggregate capabilities to provide wholistic solutions, greater value and better technology. 

Interoperability was identified as a critical issue that can be solved utilising this collective approach, with Barry Fitzgerald, CEO, Roy Hill referencing the progress being made through their involvement in collaborative projects to exchange information across interfaces, ultimately creating value for the whole industry.   

Other programs discussed designed to capture collaborative opportunities included BHP’s Fatality Elimination Program, the Electric Mine Consortium and OZ Minerals’ Think and Act Differently (TAD) incubator.     

Mining and METS businesses should look at their business models and if this aligns with the industry trend towards further collaboration. This includes:

  • What are the gaps in your offering to the industry? Do you have the expertise to fill these or would a partnership provide better outcomes? 
  • Whether your IP approach is conducive to collaboration and innovation enablement, while still protecting the businesses core practices. 
  • Are you effectively tapping into the vast innovation ecosystem to generate new ideas and drive product development? 


 4. Culture is King 













 Going hand-in-hand with changing the nature of work, mining leaders pointed to culture as fundamental to industry and organisation transformation. 

Andrew Cole, MD & CEO, OZ Minerals explored the culture they are fostering to create an environment that develops ideators and drives innovation forward. He explored the mindset shift that is needed to identify and create true value for a range of stakeholders, not just shareholders, and to view culture as intellectual property, rather than technology or products.

Culture was also front and centre in the final panel discussion of the conference on Working Together to Shift Mining's Paradigm for the Next Generation. Future leaders discussed what can encourage a new wave of talent into the industry, pointing to inclusiveness and diversity, building experience across departments and workforce flexibility as important.  

While the industry has established sustainability as a key pillar for many years, this conference demonstrated numerous examples of how it is impacting project priorities, operational decision-making and procurement now. METS businesses should look at: 

  • The impact on industry emissions from your current product and service offering.
  • What is the risk to your business if legislation or procurement policies changed to place greater emphasis on sustainability goals? 
  • Is there an opportunity to enhance, customise or retrofit your solutions to reduce emissions or contribute to successful mining with new energy sources? 


 5. Digitisation Driving ESG Goals












 Often perceived as separate issues, the convergence between digitisation and ESG was explored during the conference. 

Shell and IBM focused on digitisation and sustainability being intrinsically linked in their presentation, presenting the use of platforms to monitor and optimise energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions for operators, along with enabling environmental compliance assessments of the supply chain. 

Arun Narayanan, Chief Data Officer, Anglo American discussed digitisation and safety, talking through how their Voxel data analytics platform helped keep employees safe and operations continuous during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, deploying over 35,000 watches with sensors for contact tracing across operations.

METS companies should be aware of the growing relationship between digitisation and ESG, and that along with increasing productivity and efficiency, enabling technologies will also be evaluated through a lens of their benefits for industry sustainability and safety. Some items to consider are: 

  • Broadening your technological applications and R&D approach to tackle ESG issues.  
  • Providing technologies that empower site teams and help take them out of hazardous environments. 
  • If greater monitoring and measurement was undertaken on supply chain compliance and alignment with end-user ESG goals, where would your business stand? 



Austmine would like to thank sponsors, partners, delegates and guests for contributing to the Austmine 2021 Conference & Exhibition.