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A record 400-plus participants, including delegates from 18 countries, attended Metplant 2019 in Perth, Western Australia, on 9-10 September.
AusIMM Convenor Janine Herzig and AusIMM CEO Stephen Durkin welcomed delegates to the conference, which was themed ‘World’s best practice in metallurgical plant design and operating strategies’.
The event kicked off with the GD Delprat Distinguished Lecture, delivered by Emeritus Professor J.P. Franzidis. His fascinating address, entitled Mining and Society, explored the history, current state and future impacts of mining and society.
Nine keynote addresses were presented across the two days, including keynotes from CEEC Directors Greg Lane, Chief Technical Officer, Ausenco, and Joe Pease, Principal Consultant, Mineralis Consultants.
Greg Lane’s presentation focused on applying lessons learnt from smaller projects to help manage big projects. He stressed that managing big projects “was like being the CEO of a business”, adding that maintaining trust was key to success. The three factors that became more difficult to manage with project size were the complexity of project scope, the number of people involved, and the project and company culture, Greg said.
He shared that the primary success driver on big projects was employing good, experienced people and managing their behaviours. Other keys included selection of the right technologies, with a strong focus on preparation and planning, as well as using proven systems. “It’s all about how you put the Meccano together. The technical part is kind of simple; the complexity in big projects is mainly about people and how they work together,” Greg said.
Joe Pease’s keynote, entitled Mining Silicon Valley, challenged the perceived view that the mining industry was slow to adopt innovation. “Our job is to be on right side of create/destroy equation. There are lots of ways to destroy value and only a couple of ways to create it in this business,” Joe said.
He shared how the mining industry was very fast at adopting point solutions – such as drones and mill relining technology – but can take 15 to 20 years for widespread adoption of complex new equipment or process technology. “While the ‘fail fast, fail often’ approach is a great model for Silicon Valley, it’s not a good model for a mining tailings dam or a SAG mill,” Joe said. “For such technology ‘embedded’ within the process chain, we have to get it right first time. Not only that, new equipment has to be backwards-compatible with existing equipment and forwards-compatible with new equipment for 20 years.”
Joe said the industry needed to be meticulous and cautious; and this was different from being conservative. “We already take huge risks with billions of dollars in remote regions with unknown geological risk. Mining innovation is tough - it’s like the competing at the elite levels of a difficult sport. If you succeed, you can be proud of your business and your work,” he said.
Other keynote speakers on day one included John Vagenas, Managing Director, Metallurgical Systems, who provided an entertaining and informative presentation entitled The Stages of Digital Transformation.
He shared the six stages of introducing a digital transformation program and stressed that developing new technology was not an easy path, requiring quality data and engaged people. “People are key to success. If we don’t present data accurately how can we use it and take it seriously?” he asked.
He said data needed to be intertwined with metallurgical accounting, and should not be an afterthought or a bolt on. “People need to ensure that data is captured well. A processing plant is like making a balloon animal - you have to know where to squeeze.”
Other conference keynotes were delivered by Emeritus Laureate Professor John Ralston, Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia; Kathy Ehrig, Principal Geometallurgist, BHP Olympic Dam; former CEEC Medal recipient Aidan Giblett, Director of Processing, Newmont Goldcorp Corporation; Dean David, Technical Director Process, Wood; Stephen Morrell, Managing Director, SMC Testing Pty Ltd; and Peter Munro, Principal Consultant, Mineralis Consultants.
A trade show with more than 60 exhibitors, networking drinks and a conference dinner provided ample opportunity for delegates and suppliers to meet and mingle.
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