Dr Kash Sirinanda analyses the transformation challenges on the minds of mining leaders at this year’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference.
I had the opportunity to meet with mining leaders and decision makers during the PDAC in Toronto and learn about their pain points and the major issues across the mining sector. Based on these discussions here are my suggestions on how we can move forward and transform the industry.
Potential client (digitally advanced): “We are thinking to moving to an AI space but we are struggling to know where to start. How we can go about it”
Kash: “You need to walk before you can run. You need to ensure your digital journey has been successful in terms of your organisation, people, analytics and data capabilities before even thinking about AI transformation. I will outline how a mining company can leverage AI to drive its business requirements. My suggestions are based on being a futurist; what I have seen in other sectors like banking, retail, telco and manufacturing.
Potential client (digital newbie):“You have great ideas, but we are not ready to start digital projects yet”
Kash: “You need to start from somewhere. I categorise digital leaders based on their journey. I have tailored approaches for each leadership and different starting points to drive the digital agenda based on where you stand now. Initially we run a digital maturity assessment throughout the mining value chain (mine to port) in the areas of organisation, people, analytics and data maturity to understand pain points and issues. Then we consider them as opportunities and turn them into a list of digital initiatives. Finally, we run initiatives simultaneously. Most of the time I have seen “proof of concept (POC)” type projects fail due to communication gaps between technical and business people coupled with a lack of long-term vision. Therefore, POC type projects should focus on short term gains. In that case we provide you with a digital ambition that fits your organisation and show you how to embed that in your corporate strategy.
Potential client (CSR leading): “We run different CSR projects, but we don’t have a holistic view of how we can run numerous projects taking into account different aspects of mining.”
Kash: “We have a high-level strategy to enable you to leverage UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) in mining in order to drive the sustainability agenda. We suggest 11 principles to drive social, economic and environmental sustainability in a mining company.”
Potential client (top-tier mining company): “We are looking for innovative ideas to run both digital and sustainable agenda simultaneously. What is your vision for that?”
Kash: “Digitalised and sustainable business models are rapidly becoming the new norm in the mining sector. Industries that do not constantly learn and adapt will fall behind, and will miss out on important commercial opportunities. Over time this translates into missed profits and threats to company survival.”
Futuristic mining operating model
Potential client (top-tier mining company): “We have been working with traditional management consulting companies for more than 15 years. But we are tired of traditional solutions and approaches. What is your vision for futuristic mining?”
Kash: “I propose a futuristic mining operating model consisting of 6 pillars and 36 principles which drive a mining business impactfully.”
Potential client (mid-tier mining company): “We try to implement apps for miners but it isn’t working. What is your view on that?”
Kash: “I always tell my clients you need to have someone who understands miners very well. There is a limit to how we can use technology in a conservative field like mining. I have noticed that apps are working very well in some cases but not in others."
Successful case: An automated dispatcher system using mobile notifications.
Think: If you try to implement the use of apps in an underground mining environment then you need to make sure you have good Wi-Fi coverage, otherwise your efforts will be pointless. I have also seen virtual reality solutions where you have to wear a virtual reality headset. We need to have pragmatic digital solutions and think about safety. We need to ask whether we can actually use certain things in a mining environment.”
I found the conference to be a great opportunity to share my notes with industry experts and mining leaders. PDAC is a very exploration and investment driven conference and I noticed there were no technical presentations in the areas of futuristic mining. However, there were some presentations which talked about futuristic exploration in mining such as seabed mining. Although, that is happening already, there was nothing about asteroid mining - one of my favourite topics. I found there was a good balance in sustainability agenda. There were talks on diversity and how to work with mining indigenous communities, which I enjoyed very much.
Moving forward, it would be even better to add topics like AI, digital, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing and blockchain applications in mining. Also, it would be good to have another session for those involved in start-ups to come and present their ideas to a broader mining spectrum. Finally, I need to emphasise, each and every individual who works in the mining industry needs an open mindset to make this futuristic mining journey happen.
About the author
Dr Kash Sirinanda, Futurist at Elite Futurists & Founder, Mine Connector
Dr Kash Sirinanda has a doctorate in mine planning and optimisation from the University of Melbourne, Australia. During his PhD studies and post-doctoral work, Kash developed algorithms for generating designs that maximise the NPV of a mining operation. That work provides the basis for software that assists mine planners to design more profitable mines. Kash was also a visiting scholar at the Colorado School of Mines, USA. He has worked on various mining projects which include due diligence, operation, analytics, optimisation and digital in different commodities around the globe. He is a keynote speaker and provides mining leaders with strategic direction, and visionary leadership. His vision is to engage, partner, and collaborate with leaders and decision makers to transform a business into a best-in-class, advanced digital and sustainable-enabled competency company.