[ferro-alloys.com]BHP plans to be all ears today when it meets the mining equipment and technology sector to talk innovation and how best to offset losses of on-mine jobs from automation with a stronger industry of local suppliers.
BHP Minerals Australia president Mike Henry said as mining moved to innovate and automate there was an opportunity to increase the value and capability of the Australian mining equipment, technology and services sector.
“You don’t want all of this to just go to the big incumbent (international) groups,” he said. The 16-year BHP veteran said a stronger sector would help balance the loss of on-mine jobs as the sector moved to greater automation.
Mr Henry said the meeting in Perth, a first for BHP, would allow the miner to understand how it could create more opportunities and remove some of the impediments its suppliers faced.
“It becomes very dangerous for a company like us to think that we’ve figured out what’s troubling them and what they want,” he said.
BHP has trialled a different way of dealing with suppliers at its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.
“Rather than ask for a specific service or equipment we go out and say here is the business challenge we are dealing with,” he said.
“And then we give them the opportunity to come in and let out their ideas, bring their ingenuity to bear on our business.”
METS Ignited, a Brisbane-based Federal Government initiative to increase the global competitiveness of the Australian mining equipment, technology and services industry was involved in the Olympic Dam trial.
Chief executive Ian Dover said the sector needed to know where miners planned to innovate over the next decade for it to properly direct technology development efforts.
He said the big miners had realised their standard procurement terms did not allow suppliers to innovate.
“Miners, in general, are still very risk-averse,” he said.
Mr Henry said BHP was looking at how it could allow innovators to test and refine their products on its mine sites.
Mr Dover said the strength of local METS companies was integrating the technologies of different suppliers, not competing with the likes of Caterpillar.
“It’s is the tech sector for the mining industry,” he said.
He said the sector could attract young workers that felt mining was “just digging a hole in the ground and shipping out the dirt.”
“There is a tonne of opportunity to be unlocked here,” he said.
(The West Australian)