Mining has been one of the most important industries for the Australian economy since the mid-1800s. With more than $260 billion currently invested in new projects and those being expanded, the industry should remain in that position for the foreseeable future. Since 2005, the mining industry has experienced a ‘boom’ thanks to the strong demand for mineral resources from the world’s two largest developing countries, China and India. As a global company with 11 offices, including locations in Australia, China and India, Gensuite understands the importance of retaining strong Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) standards within the mining industry, while also ensuring a secure supply chain management system so you meet all of your HSE and exportation needs to avoid unnecessary risks and challenges.
With an ever-expanding mining industry comes an annual set of HSE risks and challenges that employees and organizations need to be mindful of. Here’s a breakdown of the HSE and supply chain challenges to the Australian mining industry and ways that workplaces and employees can overcome them.
Australia’s Mining Industry & HSE Challenges:
1. Mining Labor Shortages.
The Mining Association of Canada estimates that the country will need approximately 10,000 new workers each year during the next five years to replace current positions and fill new ones. Likewise, in Australia, the Minerals Council predicts a shortfall of 86,000 workers. What is causing this labor shortage and how can the mining industry combat this problem in such a demanding industry? Several factors amplify this situation, including an aging workforce, the decrease in the number of graduates with advanced degrees in engineering and science, a greater want/need for work/life balance (mining often takes place in remote locations), and employee safety concerns.
Apart from companies offering higher wages to reduce employee turnover rates, companies are additionally allocating training packages to ensure new employees have the appropriate skill set for the job and are also prepared for potentially hazardous situations. Such mining safety training includes: training programs and courses offered in-person and online, safety and health materials, mine rescue training and quarterly training calls. Gensuite offers a Training Compliance management software suite that allows companies to easily track training programs such as these making it easier to maintain employee engagement, training requirements and set action plans.
2. Outdated to Digital Mines.
A major global miner in Australia moved its short–term production, planning and control activities from its mine sites to a new remote operations center. The operations center implemented a supply chain visualization tool that provides an end–to–end view of the company’s iron ore supply chain, showing key operational metrics in near-real-time, permanently displayed on large screens, with data sourced from 16 disparate systems. This was the first time the company could see its total supply chain in one place, assisting decision making for the whole business.
Transitioning to the future digital mine typically begins by focusing on core mining processes with the goal of automating physical operations and digitizing assets. This includes the adoption of autonomous vehicles, drones, three-dimensional (3D) printingand wearable technologies, all operated through a connected network that uses Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to capture data in real time. Yet, the real value comes from unlocking the insights within this data to improve planning, control and decision making.
“Many mining organization 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 realizing 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,” stated Paul Klein, a Consulting Partner of Deloitte Australia.
It’s clear that the transition from outdated remote mining systems to digital mines is a clear choice for employee safety. Gensuite offers Gensuite Analytics and Insights for trend analysis program improvements such as those surrounding supply chain management in the mining industry.
3. Sustainable and Environmental Mining.
For a mining company, sustainable practices are at the core of its license to operate. More and more companies have come to realize that the only way to be economically viable is to operate environmentally and socially responsible. The themes resource scarcity, energy efficiency and sustainable growth strongly resonate with the mining industry as they have been grappling with these topics daily. Mining companies typically have dedicated professional HSE and sustainability teams that ensure workplace activities comply with regulations and activities are conducted in a responsible manner, ensuring safety for employees, as well as the communities and the environment in which they operate.
Mining operations are often in remote locations; it is expensive to connect to the grid, and often separate power facilities need to be build or diesel is used that needs to be brought onsite. Increasingly, mining companies are turning to renewable energy sources like solar or wind farms to power the operations. Water is another scarce resource that is a consideration for many mining companies. As opposed to using fresh ground water, companies have turned to sea water. As desalination plants have become more technologically advanced and more cost effective, several mining companies have built desalination plants along the coast in Chile to supply the operations.
The evolution of electric vehicles and renewable energy has an enormous impact on demand for metals and therefore the mining industry. Cobalt and lithium are mentioned often, as these are specialty metals used in rechargeable batteries. More importantly, copper is the metal of the future, as copper is used in batteries, electric wiring in cars, motors of electric vehicles as well as transmission lines. Companies such as Gensuite make it easier for mining companies to track resource use with sustainability management software to help you reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
Several areas impact the Australian mining industry – particularly in relation to Health, Safety and the Environment. There are ways you can address these challenges by integrating improved employee training programs into your workplace specific for mining, create a digital mine and an improved sustainable/more environmentally sound workplace. With all of this, you can ensure that your supply chain and your employee base will continue to grow and thrive for years to come.