According to The Australian Financial Review, the mining industry's relentless productivity push has been unleashed. More of the world's biggest mining companies are throwing their doors open to help find innovative solutions to operational challenges and senior industry executives warn without such a bold approach the industry's "innovation ecosystem" at risk.
Technology will transform the industry's level of transparency with communities, the value of ore bodies, the role of exploration and the way operations are conducted on site, especially as automation and data analytics advance.
Many of the chief executives surveyed recognised innovation was not often seen as central to their strategy, primarily due to 'risk exhaustion' where "further innovation risk was seen as too much".
"To change this, investor perspectives of mining need to shift from innovation being associated with risk to a lack of innovation being associated with risk to sustainable returns," the report said.
Whether it is in partnership with suppliers, universities or innovative individuals, some of the world's largest mining companies are increasingly using external ideas as well as internal ideas to address problems, a trend known as "open innovation".
As well as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti have sourced solutions from outside their businesses.
And it is not unique to mining. Broadspectrum chairman Diane Smith-Gander said collaboration between large and small companies, across most industries, needed to improve quickly.
"There is definitely a conjuncture of interests between the start-up and the large corporation, there are definitely skills here to do it, there are lots of examples [and] so it really is just about getting on with it very fast."
BHP Billiton vice president technology Alan Bye says the global major's recent participation in a 'hackathon' and online problem-solving competition through Unearthed, a Perth-based resources-focused innovation program, had delivered a swathe of prototype solutions for five challenges within its iron ore business it was now assessing for implementation or further development.
"When you bring fresh thinking and highly motivated people on to a problem you get some amazing outcomes," Mr Bye said.
However, he agreed implementing the solutions was challenging because "most big mining companies' procurement systems are geared towards big commercial businesses and not towards start-ups" adding it was important for the building momentum of collaboration within the industry to continue otherwise the initiative "will die for lack of support and interest".
Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Andrew Harding agreed and said "The more people involved in an effort, particularly when it is around ideas and coming up with new ideas that actually work and make people money, the more likely the economy or the industry itself will actually benefit from it."
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