Sector leaders weigh in on mining prospects

Now in its sixteenth year, the Australian Mining Prospect Awards evening is considered the Oscars of the Australian mining industry. Putting the spotlight on the sector’s shining stars, the awards celebrate the achievements and innovations seen in this constantly-evolving industry.

The fact that the mining industry is experiencing growth is testament to the diversity and talent of the professionals working within the sector.

“My observation is that the mining industry has been extremely strong,” SEW Eurodrive sales and operations manager in Far North Queensland, Daniel Dallari says. “It’s showing that it’s a resilient industry at present and moving forward into the future.”

Indeed, there are many things to celebrate in the industry. BGC Contracting, the Prospect Awards sponsor for the Contribution to Mining Award, is seeing an ever-increasing demand for battery minerals beyond the demand for Australia’s traditional natural resources.

The strength in the iron ore market has also underpinned a stable business year, while the battery mineral sector and complementary minerals, such as tin and nickel, have also demonstrated a continued emergence, according to the Minerals Processing of the Year category sponsor CDE Meta Australasia regional manager Daniel Webber.

“Excitingly, CDE has been involved in Centrex Metals’ phosphate project in Queensland and we see this minerals criticality going forward as Asia’s population continues to grow and demand more food,” Webber says.

This positive growth has also been seen in the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

Industry body Austmine (this year’s Innovative Mining Solution category sponsor) is confident that the METS sector is at the forefront of mining innovation on a global scale.

Meanwhile, CRC national marketing manager Simon Hatton says the adoption of digitalisation and technology will continue to greatly impact the industry moving forward.

The Australian Mine of the Year category sponsor, National Group, for example, has developed the ability to implement and optimise its semi-autonomous tractor system technology. This application in mining production is a world first.

“Life-saving, production- enhancing and operation-improving technologies, equipment and services are being developed
and offered every year by METS companies here in Australia,” Austmine states.

Epiroc also shares the same sentiment about Australia’s contractors and mining companies, hailing them as “among the most innovative miners in the world.”

Australian contractors have the ability to surf through “the turbulent mining economy,” while remaining leaders in innovative thinking and productivity.

“They deserve to be celebrated,” says Epiroc business line manager, underground rock excavation, Shaiful Ali.

CDE is seeing a purposeful drive from all miners to eradicate wet tailings facilities in response to recent dam incidents.

The holder of 13 patents in materials wet processing industry envisions the transformation of waste ores into valuable, high-grade products, and the elimination of settling ponds and tailings dams.

Metso, the sponsor of Excellence in Environmental Management category, remains confident that the future of humanity can be “amazing and sustainable,” with the supply of raw materials needed to build such future in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way.

“Unless our industry is able to demonstrate its environmental benefits, humanity will continue to find different ways to fulfil its needs for base metals, building materials and energy,” Metso head of marketing and communications Peter Newfield says.

Newfield adds that one of the industry’s biggest challenges is its licence to operate and that is driven by public opinion.

With innovation – which is at the heart of the Prospect Awards – businesses will remain sustainable and the mining industry long-standing.

“The Minerals Education Coalition recently released a series of striking statistics stating that every American baby will require 9150 kilograms of iron ore, 211 kilograms of zinc and 6500 kilograms of phosphate rock among other minerals in its lifetime,” Webber explains.

“These resources are not infinite by any means, and central to sustainable mining operations is the essential need to innovate to recover and beneficiate every available ounce of material processed.”

Ellaina Grixti, national marketing coordinator for Flexco, sponsor of the Excellence in Mine Safety and OH&S category, says there cannot be improvement without innovation.

“I believe having an event dedicated to recognising the value offered by those in our community offers an incentive to push beyond limits to produce work of great value to the wider mining sector.”

“Importantly, the individuals and companies acknowledged for their contributions to next- generation technologies … inform wider community members on how sustainable mining and minerals operations inhabit the very core of a thriving, healthy economy,” Webber adds.

The Prospect Awards also highlight best practices and offer an important platform for great stories to be shared, says BGC Contracting chief operating officer Andrew Taplin.

This has allowed others in the industry to improve their business performance, and in turn, enhance the mining industry’s performance branding.

Taplin believes the industry has been innovating for decades and will continue to do so.

“At BGC Contracting we consider it very important that organisations who are performing at the pinnacle of industry, receive the recognition deserved,” he says.

“This is an interesting chapter for our industry as we are able to contribute to the delivery of green technology solutions globally.”

The mining industry in Australia has, indeed, gone through numerous positive changes in the last decade, let alone the period of a lifetime, says Liebherr Australia executive general manager, sales and marketing, mining Tom Juric.

As a third-generation family- owned company, the concept of lifetime achievement is important to Liebherr.

Its company founder Hans Liebherr dedicated his life to building the company that bears his name, and there are similarities between the attributes encompassed by the Lifetime Achievement Award and what Hans Liebherr, his children and now grandchildren, The Liebherr Group, stand for, according to Juric.

Hatton also believes the awards act as a reminder to the industry as to what is important in Australian mining. This includes minimising the sector’s environmental footprint, ensuring a safe working environment and highlighting what the sector can give back to local communities.

“We need to be innovative to support our customers by providing them with safer and greener products as they endeavour to reduce their own environmental footprint, without compromising their people or productivity,” Hatton says.

National Group appears to work in the same tangent, demonstrated by its commitment to innovation and the development of sustainable practices.

“We have been recognised for our innovative practice through winning multiple awards, including Contract Miner of the Year at the 2018 Australian Mining Prospect Awards,” National Group managing director Mark Ackroyd says.

“We believe that recognition should be given to Australian mines and managers who are investing additional time and resources into innovative and sustainable projects.”

National Group has been rewarded for its forward-planning, and is now well-positioned in the industry
due to the accessibility of its heavy earthmoving equipment, particularly the ultra class range.

All in all, the Awards have provided a great opportunity to share new ideas and perspectives of the industry’s greatest challenges, including in areas such as safety, environment, innovation and community interaction.

“Acknowledging these key issues is critical to mining’s sustainability,” Austmine states.

“Safety is the most important factor on any Australian mine site, and we have no doubts that innovation and creativity will continue to flourish in the coming years,” Grixti concludes.

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