Advances in low-cost technology can drive productivity and safety benefits at mines just as they have done in other industries.
A successful metals and mining technology strategy should recognize the role of vendors in innovating—without allowing those vendors to dictate the priorities and pace or take an unfair share of the value for themselves. It should also focus on defined outcomes that demonstrate material benefits and erode cultural and organizational resistance to embracing technology. And, although no one knows exactly what new technologies are around the corner, the strategy needs a clear vision about the place and purpose of technology along the entire value chain.
An effective technology strategy includes these critical elements:
The mining industry's spending on innovation, research, and development is one-tenth that of the petroleum industry. Mining companies must make a true commitment to integrated innovation in order to manage cost structures and deliver returns, or they face the prospect of being overtaken by competitors that actively seek out technology-led productivity improvements.
Vendors tend to focus far less on horizontal integration with adjacent steps in the value chain. But that horizontal integration is crucial for mining companies, which prefer open standards that allow them to combine the offerings of multiple vendors and link together all the discrete elements of production. In this respect, the goals of vendor and miner often conflict. Miners need to move from transactional relationships to long-term partnerships, working with vendors to develop new technology to boost productivity.
Chief operating officers will have to fundamentally change not only physical assets and technology but also management and people systems. For example, it’s an important consideration that software will be making decisions instead of humans in many situations.