November 11, 2019

Intelligent mining, occupational safety, and environmental impact: mining suppliers most highly addressed challenges

  • One of the main results stemming from the study “Chilean Mining Suppliers Characterization” developed by Expande in collaboration with the corporate innovation consultant, Brinca.
  • This study’s main goal is to update the characterization of the mining supplier companies, within the framework of the 2012, 2014 and 16 previous studies; this time focusing on technology based and innovation oriented companies.

The latest study in “Chilean Mining Suppliers Characterization” conceived by Expande in collaboration with Brinca, a consultant in corporate innovation, proved that intelligent mining, occupational safety, and environmental impact are currently the most highly addressed issues among mining industry suppliers.

The purpose of this study is to update the characterization of mining supplier companies, within the framework of previous studies (2012, 2014, and 2016), adding this time as a focal point, technology based and innovation oriented companies.

The launch took place last Thursday at Fundación Chile. It counted with the participation of Javier Jara, Chief of Mining Development Division at the Chilean Ministry of Mining, Marcos Kulka, CEO at Fundación Chile, Andrés Pesce, VP of Business Development and Sustainability at Fundación Chile, Ricardo Morgado, Director of Strategy for Open Innovation in Minning at Expande; and José Manuel Morales, partner at Brinca, among other representatives of the mining industry.

Javier Jara, Chief of Mining Development Division at the Chilean Ministry of Mining, was emphatic when stating that “there are challenges we must take upon us and all those innovative and creative suppliers, who strive to coming up with solutions that contribute to making operations more efficient, are more than welcome. In this context, we as a Ministry want to actively get involved in creating and strengthening the innovation ecosystem”.

“This type of study gives out an important message, it says that Chile at least when it comes to strategy, must keep on promoting natural resources. Industries such as mining, in which we play a main role, allow us to develop matters associated with technology, human capital, and sustainability. Even, when we look at industries of the future such as electromobility, copper is crucial”.

Marcos Kulka CEO Fundación Chile

The publication, based on a survey addressed towards decision-makers (innovation, development and operation managers, general managers, etc.), representatives of 360 supplier companies, also revealed that currently 75% of the suppliers are focusing their efforts in trying to improve the industry’s productivity, while 55% of them are focusing on interoperability issues, and 45% in sustainable mining. Electromobility is found to a lesser extent with 14%; from which 71% of the supplier companies affirm having no competences to address it neither in the present nor on a medium term.

Mining current challenges require improving productivity and competitiveness of its processes through the incorporation of new technologies. However, such improvements must be lined up with the current and future industry demand, stage where it is essential driving and promoting a greater synergy among the actors of the ecosystem; this will allow mining to advance towards the inclusion of innovations with an increased transformational nature. Today the key resides in, and it is mentioned on the OECD’s report “Production Transformation Policy Review of Chile”, extending its knowledge base and increasing productivity, making the most out of its natural assets in a new and innovative way”.

Ricardo Morgado Director of Strategy for Open Innovation in Minning

Today the key resides in, and it is mentioned on the OECD’s report “Production Transformation Policy Review of Chile”, extending its knowledge base and increasing productivity, making the most out of its natural assets in a new and innovative way”.

In this vein, the VP was confident “that Expande has directed its efforts indicating the actual demand of solutions required by the mining industry through various open innovation processes (demoday, challenges, matchmaking) , with an enormous creation of value for suppliers and mining companies partnering with to the program”.

During the event, representatives of the mining industry also brought up the importance and urgency that encouraging and boosting the development of technological based goods and services represents for mining. This was carried out through a conversation panel that counted with María José Araneda, BHP Supply Innovation Superintendent; Sebastián Carmona, Chief Innovation Officer at Coldelco; Karl Jockel, Group Chief Procurement Officer at Antofagasta Minerals; José Manuel Morales, partner at Brinca; Andrés Pesce, Sustainability and Business Development VP at Fundación Chile; and Ricardo Morgado, Strategy and Development VP at Expande.

At the instance, José Manuel Morales pointed out that “currently, most of the suppliers have a greater commitment towards innovation. Innovation stands as an important concept, companies want to innovate, but the point is to know how and when to develop this competence, how to speed up projects, products and services, and from there on, gradually increase the impact of innovation”.

On the other hand, Sebastián Carmona, stressed out that “we, as mining companies must know how to adapt, process, and test the new technologies to subsequently install them in such a way, we end up generating business opportunities. We have worked outdoors, but there has also been an important work happening indoors. We have grown and evolved, and have been able to understand the role of innovation and how to integrate it more efficiently”.

Main results

Concentration of Suppliers in Operations

36% of the suppliers focus their activities in the process of mineral concentration, 35% in pit mining operations, 34% in the hydrometallurgical process, and 30% in underground mining.

As a general trend, the study shows that there are a greater number of suppliers in upstream stages of the mining process, having a lower presence on the stages of foundry (17%) and electrolytic refining (15%).

  • 36%

    Mineral concentration

  • 35%

    Pit mining operations

  • 34%

    Hydrometallurgical process

  • 30%

    Underground mining

Innovation Efforts: Focusing on Existent and Complementary Markets

The study showed that mining suppliers have innovation aimed at existing and/or complementary products and markets. 37% of the survey respondents, point out that innovation efforts are focused on improving existing products for known markets (core business innovation), while 42% indicate that their innovation efforts are geared towards existing or complementary products for adjacent or commonly approached markets (adjacent innovation). Only 21% of the suppliers develop new products for completely new markets.

This is due to the fact that innovations of a more transformational nature require a greater amount of time and several technical validations in order to be implemented, which, adding to the intrinsic characteristics of the industry in relation to the high risk and working capital, represent a more adverse scenario for its development.

High Percentage of Companies with R&D Activities

Within the technical competences, a high percentage of supplier companies work with R&D laboratories (44%). Also, a high percentage of companies have developed skills for prototyped and piloting activities (35%). These are not necessarily internal, but they also consider external connections with specialized entities in those areas. Finally, a relevant element is that 27% of the respondents declared not to have technical competences to develop innovation.

High Alignment but Low Innovation Results

The study generated a conjugate analysis of the strategic alignment for innovation, as well as the competences and its results. From this, it can be concluded that there exists a great strategic alignment in regard to the importance and vision about innovation however; there are still gaps regarding technical capabilities (27% declares not having the professional skills) and the results of the innovation.

The Commercialized Technological Solutions are Focused on Sensorization and IoT

With regard to the technological solutions currently offered by mining suppliers, those based on sensorization and IoT (16%) stand out from the rest. They are followed by solutions based on information cloud technologies (12%) and automation and robotics (12%).

Innovation Focused on Business, Processes and Customer Experience

Suppliers indicate that the main focuses of innovation reside in internal processes (48%), search for income through a business model (48%), and improving customer experience (35%).

The focal point of innovation on new products development and products performance is comparatively smaller (27% and 24% respectively). This shows that the strategy of supply companies is mostly associated to the improvement of their internal processes in terms of efficiency and its achievement regarding the customer. They also consider a constant search for new sources of income, diversifying its current mix of products offered to the market.

The Intelligent Mining Challenge

Regarding challenges, supplier companies are commercializing transversally solutions based on sensorization and IoT technologies for intelligent mining (79%). To a lesser extent these types of solutions are marketed for environmental impact demands (46%), occupational safety (50%), energy efficiency (52%), water consumption decrease (40%) and tailings (23%).

In relation to pit mining demands, suppliers are marketing technological solutions based on sensorization and IoT (47%), machine learning (56%), and information clouds (41%). The marketing of solutions based on information clouds (21%) and big data (28%) to tackle the challenges posed regarding communities management also sand out.

Green Mining: Digital Transformation, Automation, Robotics and Digital Twins

demands, and that will be addressed in the medium run by the supplier companies, it follows that for those who are focused on green mining, solutions are being developed based on trends of digital transformation (27%), automation and robotics (23%), and digital twins (25%).


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