The mining industry in Australia (and indeed, around the world) is currently in the throes of transformation – this is something that has been true for quite some time. However, the pace of that disruption and the innovation that it has brought with it have increased in recent years. 2019 is poised to be one of the most significant years for mining in recent memory thanks in large part to the new era of technology that is upon us.
1. The Evolving Planning and Approvals Regime
One of the most pressing issues that will help shape mining in the year ahead comes by way of the evolution of the approval and environmental regulatory system in NSW in particular. EMM’s own Nicole Armit, says that over the last few years “a number of initiatives and changes have been enacted in the NSW planning system, including the initiation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Improvement (EIA) Project for State significant projects by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.”
“EIA professionals along with the mining industry watch with cautious optimism that the changes will lead to more certainty in process and decision making for proponents in NSW.”
Nicole Armit, Associate Director for Environmental Assessment and Management
2. The Power of Big Data
In an era where more data was created during the last two years than at any point prior in human history, it’s easy to see why this is such an important trend to watch out for in mining. Big data and concepts like the Internet of Things stand to help mining companies measure and drive sales, mine site trailers and sales, and make better decisions in a far faster and more efficient way moving forward.
3. Tearing Down Those Innovation Barriers
Another one of the major trends impacting mining is also, sadly, one of the most negative. According to the report issued by Deloitte, mining companies are still just as risk-averse as they ever were and often lack a clear long-term vision. This creates an innovation barrier when it comes to implementing new technology – such as AI.
AI or “artificial intelligence” is poised to make a big impact on mining in the not-too-distant future, as progress has recently been made in terms of drones, AI-controlled machinery, robotics and more. If mining site operators haven’t already rethought their approach to human resources, now would be an excellent time to start.
4. The Major Realignment of Mining Boards
Along those same lines, the Deloitte report indicates that mining companies will need to help make sure that their boards are fully embracing digitisation and innovation in both concept and execution. The industry is going to change because of these things – only a total buy-in from the board will guarantee that a company is able to change with them.
5. Stakeholder Relationships and Engagement
A key factor impacting mining has to do with the increasing media and NGO attention on the mining industry at all stages of mining operations, especially at the environmental assessment and approval phase. Continuously fostering stakeholder relationships is vital to success, and the role technology plays on those relationships is only growing.
Experts agree that technology will soon affect the mining industry from a social perspective, too. Officials from both Carole Cable and Deloitte agree that social media will quickly become one of the key ways that mining companies can engage with stakeholders.
6. The Critical Nature of Water Management
Water – both in terms of supply and usage – is a big societal issue and it’s one that presents an incredible opportunity for savvy mine operators. Reducing a site’s overall water usage through technology is predicted to be one of the major ways to gain a significant competitive advantage moving forward.
7. The Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Bill
No list of issues affecting mining would be complete without mentioning this bill, which our Associate Director, Jeromy Claridge, calls “the biggest change to environmental legislation since the introduction of financial assurance requirements” in Queensland. If passed, not only will the bill create a pooled rehabilitation fund to hold and manage financial assurance funds for eligible companies, but it will also no longer require a Plan of Operations, will introduce new non-use management areas (NUMAs) and more.
8. Cybersecurity in Mining
Finally, we arrive at the topic of cybersecurity – something that is increasingly important as the entire industry goes through a significant level of disruption over the next few years. As mining technology evolves and is more widely adopted, the risk of cyber incidents is going to rise. People need to take steps to protect their infrastructures and avoid these types of issues today so that they don’t become the victim of a devastating security incident tomorrow.
Unlocking the Future of Mining, Together
At EMM, we’re more than just a leading environmental and planning consulting agency – we pride ourselves on our ability to create opportunities for clients all across Australia and beyond. If you’d like to find out more information about the major issues that will be impacting mining in the year ahead, or if you have any additional questions you’d like to see answered, get in touch with one of our experts.