More than 80 of Australia's leading Mining, Equipment and Technology Services (METS) companies, including Schlam, showcased the latest in innovation at the Austmine 2021 Conference and Exhibition in Perth in late May this year.
Held under the backdrop of COVID-19, Austmine 2021 was the first opportunity to view products, technology and innovations in person for more than a year for many.
Austmine CEO Christine Gibbs Stewart said that not all that was discussed about COVID was negative.
"We say that when the going gets tough, the tough get innovating, and that is exactly what has happened over the last 12 months. Instead of waiting for business to return to normal, many of our members developed new technologies and solutions designed to make it easier to work in a COVID world," said Ms Gibbs Stewart.
Delegates agreed that COVID had made the industry bolder, more collaborative and helped it recognise the importance of the people within their organisations.
Looking back, the top theme of the conference was valuing people.
Speakers explored the roles and structure of people in the future mining environment and questioned how the industry puts the right people in the right roles at the right time. Several envisioned an environment that would allow for redesigning typical mining workplaces where tasks would be performed more remotely, which would help attract the industry's best talent and leverage a wide range of diverse skill sets.
Decarbonisation emerged as the most significant sustainability issue. Various discussions were held on electrification, hydrogen technology and redesigning mines to reduce energy consumption. Many miners vocalised their commitments and went on record to set ambitious targets to reduce carbon footprints.
At Austmine 21, these conversations were displayed on the exhibition floor as industry projects, operational initiatives and new technologies such as the plethora of mine-spec electric vehicles.
The Austimine team noted that collaboration initiatives have come along in leaps and bounds since the last conference. One of the highlights being the Dash Maintainer Tool - a BHP led internal start-up, collaborating with METS leaders Komatsu, IFM Effector, Liebherr and AT&M.
The Dash Maintainer Tool is an IoT hardware and software platform that enables maintenance technicians to undertake diagnostic testing tasks on mobile mining equipment without being within the footprint of the machine, removing them entirely from the line of fire. The tool has improved safety by eliminating live work, reduced time to diagnose faults and made maintenance work more accessible for people with different abilities and will lead to significant productivity and emissions reduction benefits in the future.
"People often think of mining as an old-fashioned, antiquated industry because of the focus on the perceived low-tech commodity outputs.
"What they don't know about is the high-tech inputs needed to extract the minerals or commodities in a productive, safe, and sustainable way.
"The Australian METS sector is an industry known for its leading-edge, advanced solutions in such areas as robotics, automation and all things digital. It contributes more than $100 billion to the Australian economy annually and is a highly internationalised sector exporting to every corner of the globe.
"METS is our own home-grown, hi-tech sector, and innovation drives our success," Ms Gibbs Stewart said.
Late on day two of the conference, the Austmine CEO thanked Schlam for supporting the event this year.
"Schlam was one of our major sponsors, they were here in force and they had a terrific exhibition booth. I thank them for their support," Ms Gibbs Stewart said.
AUSTMINE 21 BY THE NUMBERS:
- 1497 – Participated in the event, up 22% from the last conference
- 1151 – Attended the exhibition in person, with 96% attending both days
- 1102 – Attended the conference, including 69 online
- 951 – Attended the Industry Leaders’ Dinner & Awards
- 104 – Exhibitors, up 23 from the previous event