According to The Australian Financial Review today, Mitsui Australia chief executive Yasushi Takahashi says the country's mining industry has "a long way to go" on capital and labour productivity, and it must push harder on innovation to achieve that.
Mining productivity has dropped sharply since 2000, for both labour and capital and the "real bottom" was hit about two years ago, he said. After the rush to invest and expand during the boom years, Australia was "left to fix the problem of deteriorated productivity".
Mitsui is Australia's fourth largest exporter, and is in long-running iron ore joint ventures with both BHP and Rio Tinto in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and in coal on the east coast. It is also in joint ventures in coal in Australia with Anglo American and in liquefied natural gas with Woodside.
Mr Takahashi said on Thursday that mining was "transforming to a high-tech industry".
He said a new drone technology developed by a company part owned by Mitsui, called Komatsu Australia, could "drastically improve many stages of mining operations".
It has been developed for general construction use but the Mitsui chief "predicts that it could be applicable to the mining industry, and deliver huge productivity gains".
Called "Smart Construction", it uses a drone to measure a site's configuration in 10 to 15 minutes, compared to conventional procedures that take two to three months. It then transfers the 3D site data to a computer cloud platform and automatically computes a construction plan, which automated dozers and shovels take cues from to start work.
"With this innovation, work efficiency can be four to five times better than the conventional way."
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