Prospect Awards 2020: A time to reflect on the industry

With the announcement of the 2020 Prospect Awards looming, Australian Mining reached out to its sponsors to stay on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry.

Year 2020 has not been an easy one for the mining industry. The impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath effects, including disruptions in the global supply chain and limitations imposed on local, interstate and international travel, has forced many companies to revisit and make adjustments to their workflows to maintain maximum operational efficiency.

Despite the challenging times, the mining industry has shown great resilience in the face of the crisis. The early introduction of the National Resources Industry COVID-19 Protocols by the Minerals Council of Australia in April, in partnership with Australian governments, enabled the resources sector to continue operating as an essential industry. Many mining companies also accelerated their adoption of new technologies and enhanced their safety protocols to put the industry on the path to recovery.

The 2020 Australian Mining Prospect Awards provide an opportunity to reflect on the industry’s performance and the key takeaways from this year’s experiences.
Australian Mining talked to some of the sponsors of this year’s awards to gather their views on the main challenges facing mining and how they think the industry can manage this period.

Dealing with COVID-19 related disruptions was the most recurring and also the most immediate priority brought up by the respondents.

“Without a doubt, the key challenge for the mining industry has been COVID-19,” says Christine Gibbs Stewart, chief executive of Austmine. “The global COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge that the global economy has faced in a very long time.

“In particular, mining equipment, technology and services (METS) organisations have been deeply impacted by the closure of international and domestic borders. These closures make it difficult to carry out work on site and to liaise with customers for the development of further businesses. Despite these difficulties, the METS sector has adapted to this scenario and become accustomed to a new digital method of service delivery and connection.”

Austmine has been a long-term supporter of the Australian Mining Prospects Awards and is sponsoring the Innovative Mining Solution Award category in 2020. “The Australian Mining Prospect Awards and similar events are critical in raising the profile of Australian innovation and technology. They also provide a connection point to partners and customers and hosting key industry conversations,” says Gibbs Stewart.

Putting safety first

More than ever before, 2020 has shone a spotlight on the importance of safety in mining practices.

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is more important than safety,” says Ellaina Mackay, national marketing executive at Flexco Australia – the sponsor of this year’s Safety Advocate Award.

“This year we’ve had to fundamentally change the way we do business. We pride ourselves on our hands-on approach to support and training, so that we can provide extra value to our customers. During the nation-wide lockdown, we were forced to be innovative in the ways we communicate and provide the same level of service that we’re known for without actually being in front of our customers.”

CRC Industries is another company with a strong focus on workplace safety. Karen Heidtmann, marketing service manager at CRC Industries Australia says the company has continued to support customers by adopting strict safety protocols.

“Obviously no organisation has been immune to the impact of COVID-19. CRC has instigated safety protocols to ensure the safety of its employees, as well as enacted work from home protocols, however we still have people attending the office,” Heidtmann says.

“Over this time, we’ve been in the enviable position of providing our customers with essential products due to having a manufacturing facility at Castle Hill in New South Wales.” CRC Industries is sponsoring the Mine Manager of the Year Award at the 2020 Prospect Awards.

“Management encompasses so many factors – operational excellence, productivity, maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) and environmental safety. CRC provides products to assist mining managers in their role,” Heidtmann says.

Staying ahead of the curve

As mining companies look to enhance safety in their operations and workforce, there’s been a greater emphasis on adopting technologies, such as remote monitoring and industrial internet of things (IIoT) in mining.

Sensor technology and IIoT solutions provider, ifm, is at the heart of these technological enhancements in the sector, offering a wide range of hardware and software solutions for motion control and safety technologies. The company is sponsoring the Excellence in IIoT Application Award at the 2020 Prospect Awards.

Rachael Ashfield, marketing manager at ifm efector, believes the constant demand for improved safety, quality, efficiencies and output is at the forefront of developments with new and advanced technologies for mines.

“IIoT has never been more crucial in keeping the Australian mining community at the forefront in the rapidly changing and advancing technologies to keep ahead of the global competition. With the global pandemic gripping the world, development of solutions that give advanced and remote connectivity via the cloud is imperative,” she says.

Ashfield says events like Prospect Awards are instrumental in building the industry’s resilience. “This has been the most challenging year, both nationally and internationally, where we have all been touched by the global pandemic, which has changed the way we work forever. Through the Prospect Awards, we can showcase and celebrate how flexible, adaptable and resilient the Australian mining industry is,” Ashfield continues.

Responsible mining

While disruptions from COVID-19 might be the most immediate challenge for the sector to address, there are other medium- and long-term priorities to keep in mind.
Reducing the environmental impacts, such as the industry’s energy intensity, water consumption and carbon footprint is a top priority for the sector. Metso Outotec, the sponsor of the Excellence in Environmental Management Award, has a strong sustainability culture and is focussed on offering solutions in this space.

“Due to the growing interest towards protecting the environment as well as societal concerns around the impacts of climate change, our customers increasingly need to justify their social license to operate,” says Stuart Sneyd, president, Asia Pacific at Metso Outotec.

“We can help our customers reduce their carbon footprint by providing smart, innovative technologies and solutions across the whole value chain from ore to metals. One example is in crushing and grinding, a known high-energy consumer, where we offer solutions that minimise energy requirements and maximise operational performance. Also, in areas like tailings management, Metso Outotec is well equipped to use its expertise through integrated solutions that can involve dewatering, dry stacking and the reprocessing of tailings.”

On July 1, Metso Minerals and Outotec officially merged into a new company, Metso Outotec, to become a frontrunner in sustainable technologies, end-to-end solutions and services across the minerals processing, aggregates, metals refining and recycling industries.

Sneyd says the new organisation will also strongly focus on further developing its suite of digitalisation offerings. The company’s experience during COVID-19 has shown that the demand for remote monitoring at site, for example, has accelerated. Metso Outotec is well positioned, through its technologies and services, to continue supporting and partnering with its customers through such challenges.

“Innovation is key at our company, as illustrated by our research and development (R&D) program. Metso Outotec’s R&D investments annually are €100 million ($163 million), the highest in the industry. So, the Prospect Awards dovetail nicely into our focus on excellence and innovation.”

Sustainability continues to be one of the biggest challenges for the mining industry.

CDE Global, the sponsor of the Mineral Processing of the Year Award, is committed to reducing waste in mineral processing.

Kate McCormick, CDE Mining business development manager, says this commitment is reflected not only through CDE’s patented technologies, allowing for clean and energy-saving wet processing operations, but also in the company’s innovative approach to waste management.

“CDE’s technologies open up a new range of possibilities that involve the transformation of waste ores into valuable high-grade products whilst ultimately eliminating the need for settling ponds and tailings dams,” McCormick says.

CDE Global is also leading the way in the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology tools to allow its customers to have greater control over their plant. The CDE CORE range of technology solutions use automation and sensors to monitor and enhance productivity, minimise downtime, automate processes and lower operating costs, while maximising profitability.

McCormick says CDE’s support of the Prospect Awards is in line with the company’s goal of innovation, excellence and sustainability. “The Prospect Awards highlight the value of mining and minerals projects that contribute to the local economy every day without compromising on safety and environmental protection. Crucially, the Awards highlight the wealth of talent in the industry by recognising the drive for innovation and ethical values of these projects’ architects,” McCormick says.

“Importantly, the individuals and companies acknowledged for their contributions to next-generation technologies for efficient and ethical site operations become champions in their field, informing wider community members on how sustainable mining and minerals operations inhabit the very core of a thriving, healthy economy.”

Better community engagement

While engaging positively with local communities is already a top priority for most major mining companies, Liebherr’s executive general manager sales and marketing – mining, Tom Juric, is of the opinion that the industry needs to do more to remain relevant to the broader community.

“The industry is constantly under the microscope, and yet when mining contributes positively, and in some instances profoundly, these stories don’t make it onto the main stage,” Juric says.

“Whilst this has had some impact, I fear the issue will only get worse, particularly in attracting and developing new talent and the next generation of mining professionals.
“I believe the mining industry has lost relevance to the everyday Australia. Even though, to quote Ian Macfarlane, everything in the room you’re reading this in wasn’t grown. It was mined.”

He believes events like Prospect Award provide a good opportunity to change this negative perception.

“Awards like this give us a chance to hear and revel in the achievements of the people within our industry. In a time where good, positive stories are few and far between, these awards provide a respite and a reality check that mining is a dynamic and innovative industry that’s here to stay.”

German technology company, SEW Eurodrive, is another long-time supporter of the awards, sponsoring the Coal Mine of the Year Award since 2013.

The company’s national service manager for gearboxes Daniel Dallari believes the awards provide an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of the industry.

“This award acknowledges the nominees who demonstrated the highest level of productivity, efficiency and safety,” he says.

“The awards have also raised awareness to the general public on the importance that the resources industry plays on the Australian economy and people’s livelihoods. That’s why we think it’s important.”

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