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21 June 2023 3 min read

Miners are renowned for their extraordinary ability to operate at the cutting edge of innovation and for pioneering new solutions and new technologies.

Few, if any, sectors do this better than Australia’s mining sector.

Examples are everywhere:

From autonomous vehicles operating at fleet-scale to remote process control of hazardous operations.

From the creation of site-specific internet of things networks to using big data to create predictive maintenance scheduling for equipment. 

From using AI fed by sensors, real-time data and analytics to reduce risks to using a super-conducting circuit (a quantum object) to sense differences in geological formations.

CSIRO has been a key partner in the development of many of these of these solutions. We are also deeply involved in work underway to develop the new approaches and new technologies needed on the next mining frontier including in space resources and rediscovery on Earth.

CSIRO Chief Scientist Professor Bronwyn Fox ©  Melissa Martin Photography

Meeting the challenges of the future

It’s impossible to precisely predict the future but we do know the areas within which possible futures must lie.

We also know that we won’t secure our future by continuing to do the things the way we have done them before, and that the future is unlikely to be created by the same people and the same thinking that gave us the present, and the past.

It is this uncertain, disruptive, adaptive, exciting world where CSIRO’s Future Science Programs (FSPs) operate. FSPs are where we do breakthrough science, where we are investing in the new science that will underpin Australia’s future in a rapidly changing world.

Multi-year, multi-disciplinary investments in our collective future, FSPs bring together teams from across CSIRO, our partners across the innovation eco-system and in industry and focus on solving our tomorrow’s greatest challenges.

Many of our FSPs have application in the Mining industry, including Deep Earth Imaging, Responsible Innovation, Hydrogen Energy, Space Technology, AI and Machine Learning, Quantum, Autonomous Sensing, and Permanent Carbon Locking.

Importantly, through FSPs we’re also growing the capabilities of a new generation of researchers and attracting to Australia the best students and experts to work with us on future science.

A key aspect of the FSP program is that it is focussed on moving beyond the lab to the real world.

As each FSP reaches the end of its planned funding, the best technologies and capabilities transition into our Business Units, moving to a new phase of development, or are adopted by research partners or follow another pathway to commercialisation.

This approach allows us to introduce new FSPs to tackle the next emerging Horizon 3 challenges.

To date, we have invested $425 million in FSPs and last year the program total annual investment was $86.6 million.

Challenging questions

Good science is about the ability to ask (and answer) good questions.

The same could be said for preparing for the future.

So here are my questions for you:

  • What if the most valuable part of your company weren’t your assets, but the innovation community you were a part of?
  • What if your future didn’t depend on the size of your capex budget but on the innovation eco-system you were contributing to?

My open invitation is to join with us, work with us, collaborate with us to continue to unlock the power of science and innovation in Australia’s Mining sector.

Looking to the future

It’s fascinating and exciting to think about what mining will be like in the future.

The enormous technical challenges of ultra-deep operations, undersea exploration and rediscovery on Earth, the very real prospect of new mining operations on the Moon and Mars, and the increasing demand that resources be accessed in environmentally sensitive and sustainable ways puts mining at the cutting-edge of innovation, a place it has been for many years.

At CSIRO, we see a future where mining remains at the cutting edge of innovation, automation, and digitisation.

A future where resource recovery is inextricably linked to best practice sustainability practices.

A future where science continues to help create thousands of new jobs in mining and attracts to Australia some of the best researchers from around the world.

A future where Australia’s mining sector continues to play a leading role in meeting the growing global demand for natural resources.

If you see this future too, please join us on our mission - you would be most welcome.

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