How Great Minds power Great Mines

How Great Minds power Great Mines

The mining industry is critical to supplying the materials for the energy transition and is itself transforming into a sector full of opportunities for talented people eager to help build a better tomorrow.

Max Luedtke, Business Line Manager Mining, ABB
Max Luedtke, Business Line Manager Mining, ABB
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For me, Great Minds, Great Mines is at the core of everything we must do – at ABB and as an industry – to build the future of mining because the energy transition hinges on our ability to attract, nurture, and leverage diverse talents.

I’ve spent my career in the sector and seen it evolve, as it needed to. Today mining is so much more than about extracting minerals – it is a people-centric business where relationships, collaboration and innovation are paramount. To shape the trajectory of our industry in delivering the great mines of the future, we need to apply the expertise from a diverse collection of great minds.

In the past few years I’ve seen a huge emphasis on innovation and collaboration to drive progress in mining – it’s a paradigm shift from the old days where everything was kept close and each company tried to do everything itself. Today, especially in the face of the challenges the world faces to decarbonize, we all understand that the strength of an ecosystem is essential. It’s like sport, when you truly play as a team, you have success.

The great mines of the future – today

Together, great minds are building the great mines of the future in terms of sustainability, safety and all aspects of the industry. Part of that is attracting young talent, and it’s always frustrated me that there’s been a lack of role models presented to kids for jobs in mining.

Mining has been part of human life since we first started to understand about shaping metals for tools. Farming is seen as a foundation of our society, which of course it is – but so too is mining. We have to lift it up and I think that requires a different approach that goes beyond the stereotypical miner that most people have in their mind. Every kind of skill set is needed for modern mining and we need the smartest of them to join our industry, both for companies like ABB and miners themselves.

The perception is changing but we have a long way to go. I think it’s important to bring the understanding to children in the early stages of school so they know how much minerals touch us. I don’t know any young kids who aren’t fascinated by stones! The interest is there, we need to encourage it and explain it.

For the whole community, much more education is needed so they understand that metals don’t just ‘show up’. When we buy food, we expect to know where it’s from, how it was produced and what’s in it. We should be asking the same questions about the materials in our computers and smartphones and EVs. How and where were the minerals used to make them produced – were they taken out of the earth ethically with minimum environmental impact? Consumers have a lot of power in our hands and mining companies are connecting to that idea. We should elevate the profiles of responsible miners – the great mines – so they benefit from this. These shifts in understanding will help us to attract the great minds we need for our industry.

Finding our great minds

Recruitment is also being assisted by the fact that many interesting mining jobs are moving from remote work to cities. There are good examples around the world. We have a customer in Chile where the mine is 1000km away from Santiago and sits at about 4500 meters altitude but very few people working at site. They have a remote operations center in Santiago where they have most of their staff, which is about 50 per cent female. For a lot of people, being able to work for the mine in the city instantly makes it a lot more attractive.

We need for our industry to have that strong appeal to attract software engineers and data analysts and mechatronics specialists who have a lot of options for where they take their great minds. They are looking for miners who have open mindsets to new technologies, and Boliden in Sweden is one such company.

Boliden’s culture is not to be tied to the status quo. They encourage their people to peek out of the box and have weekly team meetings where they say okay, this is the way we do it now, are there smarter, safer, different ways to do it? They’re not the biggest mining company in the world, and they’re also open to working with other companies big (like ABB) and small (like startups). They are open to trialing technology in their mines without wanting to own the IP, unlike the old hold-onto-everything mindset in a lot of mining companies, which stifled innovation. Instead, the invite other miners in to see how they’re using it.

If mining companies and technology companies all work together like this we can drive initiatives such as the journey to electrify and automate mines so much faster and get the economies of scale. It is essential because no one company can get us there.

We are better together

Knowing that competition is healthy, ABB has done many workshops bringing mining customers and OEMS from around the world together to discuss how they’re progressing with some of the industry’s biggest challenges. It was one of the good things to come out of COVID when people had time and we did it online. True, it would start a bit tense, but soon the discussion is taking flight. Everyone realizes that they have different competencies and we need to bring them all together.

That process is how we set up our eMine framework, to support the energy transition efforts of our mining customers. Getting to an all-electric mine must be a collaboration between lots of different companies fitting together those complementary competencies. Also, the mining companies have to work together – we can’t have one big miner doing one thing, and another something different. They have so much buying power, so they are essential to driving the overall initiative.

Together, we strive to lay the foundations for a mining industry that meets all of the needs of society – economic and environmental. We see ABB as a system integrator for our industry, helping to connect the great people, companies and technologies so that we can move forward with a united vision to mine better, together. To me, that is Great Minds, Great Mines in action.

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