For a US$1 trillion industry, a shift that generates $370 billion of value can indeed be called transformational.
That’s what is said to be on the table for miners over the next decade if they can use digital technologies to turn efficiency and productivity gains into lower costs, better margins and stronger, sustainable capital returns.
As recently as 2019, mining’s digital transformation was said to be in its early stages. A research report series published by a leading mining corporate finance and technology investment firm suggested pre-COVID the shift was “accelerating”.
The reasons put forward were predictable enough: profit and people (safety).
Post-COVID and a period that induced an almost manic build-up in the world’s focus on workplaces, energy and decarbonisation, the drivers are multiplying.
Deloitte said in its Tracking the Trends 2022 report a link between digital transformation in addressing decarbonisation targets and creating a more attractive industry for younger generations was “clear”.
Sarah Coleman, CEO of the idoba mining technology business within global services major Perenti, says while digitalisation is driving evolutionary change in mining, the “fundamental societal and market shifts around environment, social and governance (ESG) are the true drivers of revolution” in the industry.
“These fundamental shifts to ESG as a primary value driver are rapidly creating new operational realities for operating, talent attraction, knowledge management, and access to capital and financing,” Coleman says.
“As a result, mining needs a new operating construct that enables efficient, effective and proactive responses across diverse value drivers and anticipates society and the market’s persistent appetite to dive deeper into every aspect of operations to get to detailed data points and unbiased insight-led decisioning.
“This also creates a strong need for supply chain transparency and agility.
“Instead of being the disruptor, digitalisation has emerged as the solution to create a new age and holistic mining operating system oriented around shared value and transparency.”
Digitalisation can also “alleviate the gap between the supply and demand of critical minerals”, says the CEO of Cambridge, UK-based IntelliSense, Sam Bose.
“A 3-to-5% increase in metal recovery using AI applications would leverage our capacity to deliver an additional 450,000 tonnes per annum of copper worth $3.2 billion. This is equal to the Las Bambas mine’s annual production capacity in Peru, a global top-eight copper producer. Considering that the average mine takes 15 years to bring into production, improvements like this provide some air cover for an already suffocated industry.”
So, is mining’s digital transformation accelerating?
This is an excerpt from InvestMETS Mining 4.0 Volume 1. To order a copy, contact email@example.com