Australia’s future mining success dependent on digitalisation efforts in the present, says expert

Australia’s future mining success dependent on digitalisation efforts in the present, says expert

Whether its meeting operational KPIs, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets, or harnessing the benefits that come with automation, digitalisation is the necessary foundation for future mining success says Sachin Vaidya, ABB’s Regional Business Line Manager for Digital.

Speaking at the 2023 Future of Mining event in Perth, Vaidya reiterated that Australian mining organisations cannot afford to be left behind in terms of their digital transformation.  

“Mining operations are complex working environments, and as sustainability becomes increasingly important, the complexity of what is required of these operations will also grow,” explains Vaidya. “Digitalisation plays an essential role in terms of building or deploying technologies in the mining industry today that will make operations safer, sustainable and profitable in the future.”  

Vaidya points out that digitalisation is key to addressing one the Australian mining sector’s biggest challenges – the skilled labour shortage. According to the Australian Resources and Energy Employer Assocation, the mining industry is experiencing the ‘worst skills crisis in a generation’ with 24,000 new workers required by 20271.  

“Australian mining organisations face the dual issue of having an ageing skilled workforce and a younger generation who are less interested to work in mines,” he says. “How can you attract new talent to the sector? One of those ways is to prove that your organisation is moving forward in a responsibly sustainable way, such as meeting ESG targets. You cannot do that without digitalisation.”  

An ABC report echoes Vaidya’s point, noting that environmental concerns are a key deterrant to Gen Z working in mines2.  

“A way to show the younger generations that your organisation is doing everything it can to improve its environmental and social performance is through advanced digital technology and automation,” says Vaidya. “Having great systems in place will enable your organisation to improve the reliability of assets, reduce emissions, make data-driven decisions, and provide transparent reporting.”  

Importantly, Vaidya notes that digitalisation is intrinsic to collaboration between entities.   “To make sure that equipment at a local level in mine operations is connected and that data is captured in real time, mining operations need powerful, integrated systems. It is key to optimising the use of resources and energy management,” he says. “Of course, people should be at the centre of deploying this type of digitalisation system. Identifying the right stakeholders early on is necessary to a digitalisation project’s success.”  

Vaidya uses the example of the ABB Ability™ Operational Management System that was successfully deployed at Gold Fields Granny Smith mine in Western Australia.  

“This was a collaborative effort from day one, and what was important to this project was having change champions on the Gold Fields site who initially tested our software and then helped to deploy it across their site,” he says. “You need to identify these kind of champions to advocate for the change and ultimately implement these systems.”  

Michael Place, Mining Manager, Gold Fields and Sachin Vaidya, General Manager - Asia Pacific, ME & Africia, BL Digital, ABB at 2023 Future of Mining conference, Perth
Michael Place, Mining Manager, Gold Fields and Sachin Vaidya, General Manager - Asia Pacific, ME & Africia, BL Digital, ABB at 2023 Future of Mining conference, Perth
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Collaboration is also critical to the success of digitalisation and automation in mines, says Vaidya, who notes ABB’s extensive experience as both an OEM and solutions provider.  

“We have been working in the mining domain for over 130 years, desigining and manufacturing equipment such as hoists and gearless mill drives, but at the same time building digital and automation solutions that address specific mining challenges,” he says. “We are continuously innovating new technologies and software that assist mining operations to drive their KPIs – namely safety, profitability and producitivity – and help them show the younger generations that they are a good employer.”  

One area that ABB is developing its solutions is in the ESG auditing – an area that Vaidya says requires focus.  

“All miners today have sustainability targets, as mining is one of the highest industrial contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions,” he explains. “To assist miners in achieving their net zero target, ABB is developing digital solutions in ESG to complement our existing portfolio such as energy management. Our emissions monitoring solutions ensure companies are up to date with their ESG data from an auditing perspective.”  

To summarise, Vaidya reiterates ABB’s role as a solutions provider and partner to the Australian mining industry.  

“As a technology provider is important for us to hear what our customers have to say, for them to share with us their unique operational challenges, so that we can build solutions that turn those challenges into opportunity,” he says. “As a solutions provider to the Australian mining industry, that is our objective. To improve mining operations so that they are safer, sustainable, more productive and profitable.”    

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