A key part of keeping the mining industry thriving during times of uncertainty is keeping a keen eye on future trends and technologies. Being able to see what is around the corner is a fundamental requirement for any modern business, and mining transport companies are no exception.
To that end, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, the independent global firm collaborate to provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services to select clients company has compiled a fascinating and insightful look into the top 10 issues shaping mining in the year ahead and beyond. There’s a lot to take in, here are the main points.
“As the mining industry’s value proposition is increasingly called into question, mining companies are beginning to see that they cannot succeed in the future unless they change the way they operate. This is about more than enhancing efficiencies. It’s about re-establishing trust with stakeholders and collaborating to devise better responses.”
Glenn Ives, Americas Mining Leader Deloitte Canada
1. Big data is driving the future
“Big data” is a term thrown around a lot in large-scale organisations, but it’s one that’s important to take advantage of. Copious amounts of data are generated from internet-connected mining devices on the ground, and the computers that measure and drive sales, mine site trailers and sales. By applying the data made available through research and experience to current scenarios, companies can make better decisions faster. In many ways, extracting value out of the ground is only made possible by extracting key data out of the mountains of analytical information made from pit to port.
“Many mining organisation are not yet using all of the data they are capturing from operational systems, or are still struggling to improve reporting from legacy ERP systems. However, some are now realising that capturing and managing the right data and using the latest analytic tools, can deliver significant improvements in operational productivity, maintenance of assets, and safety of employees.”
Paul Klein, Consulting Partner Deloitte Australia
2. Innovation must thrive
Of course, knowing what to look for is only a part of a modern strategy. Enabling key decision holders to act on that insight is crucial to make required changes. While risk aversion is a necessary part of the business, Deloitte found it to be particularly prevalent in the mining sector. Businesses that are willing to try new strategies can find big rewards.
“Although commodity prices have begun recovering, mining executives are still feeling the sting of the recent downturn. As a result, they are collectively more cautious than their peers likely were just five years ago. While this is spurring an ongoing focus on innovation, it also means their innovation efforts are increasingly constrained by the need to demonstrate near-term returns. The catch is that, unless you are trying new things, you are not learning, and if you are not learning, you will fall behind.”
Andrew Swart, Global Mining Consulting Leader Deloitte Canada
3. A new type of worker
Advances in technology don’t just make digging machines stronger or mine site trailers more capable. New progress made in the field of robotics, drones and AI-controlled machinery will mean site operators need to rethink their approach to human resources. While repetitive and potentially dangerous tasks move over to automated devices, there will be an increased need for people such as remote machinery operators, software developers and maintenance technicians.
“Companies need to realise that they will not be able to recreate previous career paths as we head into the future. Job descriptions and the skills required are changing wholesale, mandating a complete reconception of the way in which miners must attract and retain talent.”
Ian Sanders, Mining Leader Deloitte Australia
4. Industry image makeover
The mining industry has long been beset by a poor public image. Corruption, environment and social license issues are a common concern for both mining companies and the public. To combat this in the future, a new approach is required. This will involve a new degree of transparency that has been seen before but will reap greater rewards.
“If mining companies truly hope to repair their image, they must do more than change their messaging. They must also fundamentally change their behaviours around the way they mine how they engage with communities, attract talent, and deliver on their promises.”
James Ferguson, Global Mining Tax Leader Deloitte UK
5. Better stakeholder engagement
Deloitte identifies that, traditionally, mining companies faced a backlash from local communities through poor planning or communication. A new, creative, approach will be required as digital communities augment local voices. This may take the shape of better community education or a different stakeholder reward model.
6. Water management a priority
Water supply and usage are set to become a key environmental and societal issue into the future, with predictions that by 2050 one in four people will live in an area suffering water shortages. To get ahead of this and offer a competitive advantage, savvy mine operators are using technology to reduce overall water usage.
7. Shareholder activism on the rise
Traditionally, shareholders in mining companies worked as silent investors, not having much involvement in the company besides collecting the occasional dividend. This is changing with the advent of shareholder activism. Some groups of shareholders are using their part-ownership of the company to demand change across the way mining sites operate to how the boardroom makes decisions.
8. Resource supply in question
A new trend that is of concern relates to the sourcing of new materials to mine into the future. For example, new gold discoveries are down over eighty percent compared to this time ten years ago, which places increased pressure on operators to place new mines even more strategically.
9. A new generation of board members
As skill sets requirements diversify in every workplace, so do the tasks set before mining company board members. The trend into the future is for board members to eschew a simple oversight role in favour of using a range of new skills to engage in direct decision making. The net benefit of this will mean a more agile company that can make smarter decisions as new challenges arise.
10. New disruption on the horizon
It’s vital to keep an eye on what the next disruptive technologies will be, and how an established operation can prime themselves to take full advantage of it. For example, analysts point towards the rapid rise of Lithium and Graphite-based technologies to drive demand over the next 20 years and beyond.