METS Ignited CEO Adrian Beer has urged mining companies to recognise and back the high level of technological innovation in the competitive supplier landscape, and not go out and “hire 500 or 600 IT software engineers for your own organisation at the expense of all the vendors out there trying to help”.
Speaking at the IMARC event in Sydney, Beer said the mining industry was faced with a raft of environmental, social and governance, as well as technical and cost challenges, and was competing with other industries for people and funding needed to find sustainable solutions.
He said collaboration – a relatively new phenomenon for the industry – was speeding development of technologies crucial to improving mining’s operating, environmental, safety and governance performance.
“ESG remains our number one priority,” Beer said.
“The world demands us to supply these minerals in a sustainable way. And we need to make sure that our industry is here for the future and it is supporting the needs of the future. We also see that the solution to many of these challenges comes with the application of technology and again as BHP [group procurement officer James Agar] just explained, they can’t do it all themselves.
“The great news is we’ve got a hall out there full of people trying to help and there’s lots of people they can support and serve.”
The IMARC event this year drew more than 430 exhibitors and 7500 visitors.
Saudi Arabia industry and mineral resources minister, Bandar bin Ibrahim AlKhorayef, earlier told the conference Australia had “one of the world’s most advanced mining ecosystems”, and one the country hoped to lean on as it sought to rapidly expand investment in its minerals sector.
“We talk about transformation and change in our sector; we do need new people,” Beer said.
“We’re going to need 500,000 more STEM skills in Australia just to serve our local market. And we have 400,000 people leaving the sector in retirement over the next 15 years. So that’s 900,000 people that we need to attract to our sector.
“Our number one challenge in solving these [ESG and technical] issues is skills.
“People have a choice of what industry they work for.
“Vendors have a choice of what industry they supply to.
“This goes both ways and I think again BHP just gave a great example.
“I like the transparency conversation that James talked about. This is our business plan – how can you help?
“There are people who have commercial businesses that are very successful, solving very specific problems, hiring domain expertise, and training them to understand our industry’s challenges and how to solve them. And that needs to be rewarded.
“These vendors can go and serve any industry. There is a global skills shortage, particularly in STEM, and there are multiple sectors that have got demand for the same skills we need. So let’s make sure they choose our industry to serve and be easy to do business with.”
BHP’s Agar said the mining giant was working more collaboratively and openly with suppliers and other big miners to improve the resilience of supply chains and fast-track progress on a range of ESG fronts.
“It’s a transformational time for us across the industry, shifting this previously male-dominated industry towards gender balance, decarbonising an emissions intensive sector, and empowering traditional owners to form lasting partnerships,” he said.
“It’s clear that none of these opportunities can be realised internally or individually.
“They are challenges to be solved together by being transparent with each other, clear about our goals, open about our challenges. We stand to build mutual value.
“We will minimise disruption, and we will build truly resilient supply chains.”
“At BHP, we say our purpose is to bring people and resources together to build a better world. The people in this room, the partners we deal with every day, are absolutely fundamental to that purpose and with radical transparency, we can build that better world together.”