People, process, then technology: Mining conference in talks tech to save lives.

Author:McKinley, Karen
Position:Mining - Conference news
 
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The digital transformation is not as much about tech as it is about people.

The overlying theme at the second annual Beyond Digital Transformation conference was about how technology is transforming mining for the greater good of the people that work in the industry.

The conference is presented by Partners in Achieving Change Excellence (PACE)

Hundreds of delegates covering the mining and mining service industries packed the United Steelworkers Hall and NORCAT in Sudbury on Feb. 6 to hear from executives and those at the forefront of innovation on how technology is not just changing mining, but how mining can own the change and push innovation outside the industry.

Delegates also took a tour of NORCAT, taking in displays and talks by experts and industry executives.

"The best workforce for the future is my current workforce. We talk often about how to retrain and refocus staff to work in a digital environment," said Ricus Grimbeek, chief operating officer for Vale in North America, Europe and Asia refineries and honorary conference chair, in his presentation Feb. 6. "Tech is connecting people, locations and systems. We have to be partners in how mining will be done differently."

He described the digital transformation in mining as fundamentally running a business differently. Like doing open heart surgery and running a marathon at the same time.

While it seems like a daunting task, Grimbeek said he felt privileged to be working in the industry now.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset the industry, he said.

While Vale is more than 100 years old, major changes have only been happening for the past 30. Much of that has been in health and safety. The digital transformation is largely about getting people out of dangerous situations underground and on surface, where they can operate systems and machines without personal risk. It's also about lowering costs to mine companies as operations go deeper and become more expensive.

There's more than just money and jobs at stake. Mining has to be more environmentally friendly, and one solution is adopting the use of battery-electric vehicles.

More people are talking about climate change, which Grimbeek said will be a driving factor for the economy in five years. Reducing the carbon footprint will become more of a priority for mining operations.

"We allow ourselves to be on a journey where we hope it will sort itself out. We have to be sorting that out now," Grimbeek said.

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