West Australian iron ore mining company, Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), joined forces with Australian and Chinese universities to launch a new mining innovation research model.
FMG CEO Nev Power said that his company was excited by the prospect of working with the brightest minds from the graduate programs in universities in the two countries. He said:
“We used innovative ways to develop and mine orebodies in the Pilbara [in north-west WA] that other companies considered uneconomic.
“That approach to innovation has been very successful for FMG, and we say our workers have two jobs.
“One is to do their job really well, and the other is to try and figure out a way to do it more productively and efficiently, and it’s that constant search for innovation and new ideas that drives our company culture.”
As the second-largest investor in FMG is a Chinese group, Power also said that establishing stronger ties with this powerful Asian country would bring significant expertise. He stated:
“We will never have all the ideas ourselves within Australia. The more of these links we can build, the more collaboration between universities, the greater level of cultural understanding between countries adds to innovation and helps Australia build its business.”
Sam Spearing, a director at Curtin University, commented that this mining innovation project is very important to address the negative press and misunderstandings in the industry, explaining that innovation is changing the way the sector operated. He said:
“Basically the way to make mining safe is to move people away from the working space. That means more instrumentation, more robotics, more autonomous machines, which in turn needs different skill sets.
“The future jobs will change and become even more focused on high-quality, highly skilled capabilities.”
The universities involved in the project are the WA School of Mines at Curtin University, the University of Western Australia (UWA), Sun Yat-San University in Guangzhou, and the Central South University (CSU) in Changsha.