Working in Australia’s national science agency I can look across the breadth of scientific research that is undertaken to see how new breakthroughs may translate into mining, and how innovations arising in the mining industry have potential to translate into other domains.
The global energy transformation, increasing population growth and associated urbanisation and impacts of climate change are all driving increasing and sustained demand for metals and minerals and simultaneously requiring changes to how we extract and recover those metals and minerals. Innovations that address these challenges will come from mission-focused research that brings together interdisciplinary and interconnected teams to drive the breakthrough science and technology that can deliver solutions and create value for Australian.
Through Resourceful we are sharing stories from our Future Science Platforms (FSPs). CSIRO’s FSPs are our investment in new science that will underpin disruptive innovation and an investment to grow the capability of a new generation of research scientists who will drive the breakthrough science we need to solve Australia’s greatest challenges. Designed to be interdisciplinary, each FSP brings researchers from multiple domains together, enhancing potential for innovations to translate between domains.
CSIRO’s Mineral Resources Business Unit is engaged in many of these FSPs, including leading the Deep Earth Imaging (DEI) FSP and the Autonomous Sensors FSP. The DEI FSP was established in 2016 and is nearing the end of its research program with the novel science developed transitioning into regular use across CSIRO and with our collaborators and industry partners – including our InLab partnership with the Australian National University (ANU).
Mining know-how is being translated into our growing space industry and Mineral Resources researchers are collaborating in the Space FSP to bring their expertise in remote operations, sensing and understanding of resource models to develop approaches for the recovery of in-situ resources needed to support long-term habitation and exploration of the moon and Mars. And developing technology that is suited for the constraints of remote space exploration can also drive breakthroughs that will translate back to Earth operations.
In recent issues of Resourceful we’ve highlighted our engagement in the CarbonLock and Autonomous Sensors FSPs. But there are also many other FSPs that have potential to drive innovation for the mining sector – whether that is in the Quantum FSP, with potential to bring new technology for communications and sensing, or in the Revolutionary Energy Storage Systems, or Hydrogen FSP, all of which are developing technology that may require inputs of critical minerals and other mining outputs, and will also provide solutions that will move us forward on our journey to a decarbonised industry.
In seeking to solve challenges with science and technology, it is also imperative we consider the broader impacts of our work and changes to governance models and stakeholder engagement that are needed to support successful technology transfer. Our investment in the Responsible Innovation FSP, and in the Valuing Sustainability FSP seeks to develop the frameworks and skills to make those assessments.
We’re highlighting the Navigating Transitions project in the Valuing Sustainability FSP – designed to help us understand and develop approaches to achieve a successful transition that accounts for social and environmental impacts, as well as economic ones, and to broaden the conversation around the trade-offs between these impacts.