The 26th World Mining Congress (WMC) in Brisbane, held in the last week of June, has been an overwhelming success for Australian resources on the world stage.
Described as “the best World Mining Congress ever!” by the Chairman of the International Mining Congress Committee, Professor Marek Cała, the conference was a truly global meeting of leaders from multinational mining and resources companies, major and minor METS providers, governments and science leaders delivering to the resources industry.
Stockhead reported that having CSIRO as the host organisation of the congress “tells you it is not your average mining conference.”
“Discussion points (were) wide-ranging and have more to do with broad issues facing the industry than the share price promote intention of your average mining conference,” wrote Barry FitzGerald, Stockhead.
Connections lead to collaboration
As the leading international forum for the global mining and resource industries, WMC 2023 provided a unique opportunity for international representatives of the world's leading resource economies to meet.
Over four days, new partnerships were forged, big challenges discussed, and the latest research, technology and best practices shared.
If you were there you know the buzz was around mobilising resources - human and mineral – to meet the global challenge to decarbonise.
As host for the event, we were able to showcase our place in the Australian innovation ecosystem and build our connections with stakeholders from government, research and industry, at home and abroad.
As Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO ensured there was an Australian voice of influence to be heard in global innovation and science to support a sustainable resources sector.
Global connections to power global decarbonisation
The Congress brought together over 3,700 delegates from 73 countries around a unifying theme of ‘Resourcing tomorrow: creating value for society’.
And this theme resonated through the repeated call from leaders in industry and government around greater collaboration to respond to the global urgency to decarbonise for a sustainable future for all.
The mining and resources sector is crucial in bringing about the transformational changes required to see our planet achieve global emissions targets.
Time is our greatest challenge so cross-collaboration between sectors and nations is key to deliver the materials and technologies needed to transition.
CSIRO Mineral Resources Director, Dr Rob Hough, said the breadth of discussion and engagement from all levels of industry and government was “networking at scale.”
“When we talk about taking on the greatest challenges, we speak of the power of collaboration, the urgency, the need for open discussion on the detail of the challenge at hand, and we look to science, technology, engineering and people to solve it,” Rob said.
Mining has a critical role in creating a sustainable world
Outgoing CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall said in his opening speech that, “mining built the world today, but without change it will not sustain the world tomorrow.”
“We all have the power to create a different future,” said Larry.
“A future where we have reinvented how we mine and secure our resources, so that industry and our environment can co-exist. Where we have the resources and technology needed to support our transition to net zero, while ensuring our people and the environment are protected.”
Congress Chairman for WMC 2023 and CSIRO Research Program Director for Mining, Dr Hua Guo, says many plenary speakers highlighted the urgency felt in the international community to rapidly respond to the need for critical minerals and metals required to reverse global emissions.
“Tim Gould, Chief Energy Economist with the International Energy Agency (IEA) made very clear that the dramatic transformation all countries need to make to meet emissions targets fundamentally relies on significant increases in the production, availability, and affordability of critical metals like copper, nickel, lithium, and rare earths,” said Hua.
“The IEA also makes the point that meeting the existential threat of global warming by moving to net zero economies is “not a race between countries but a race against time and we can only win this race collectively and through collaboration.”
Mining workforce and women
With forecasts predicting a rapid uptake in mining these critical metals, resourcing the workforce emerged as another key challenge facing the industry.
The uptake of new technologies, ranging from remote management systems to robotics and automation, plus the need to find and mine new terrains, coupled with declining social sentiments around mining, is creating a talent challenge.
Fresh skills and new graduates are crucial to plug a generational gap in the global mining workforce. Attracting more people to work in the sector is as important as finding critical resources.
Industry leaders are encouraging universities to secure the right training and talent to deliver a pipeline of diversely skilled workers in resources.
And the work of women in the resources was highlighted as an area that requires improvement.
CSIRO Research Program Director for Characterisation, Dr Mark Pearce, said many speakers powerfully highlighted the mining industry's reflection on itself.
Discussions on women’s experiences working in mining demonstrated the “importance of ensuring not just physical but psychological safety and to address problems of harassment,” Mark said.
“This is essential if the industry is to flourish and have access to the diversity of talent that we need to resource global decarbonisation,” said Mark.
New mining frontiers in Space provide lessons on Earth
Not many mining meetings include a NASA contingent.
In a dual exchange of ideas from space agencies, and mining and manufacturing experts, the challenges of taking humans to extra-terrestrial domains was on the agenda too.
Resourcing space exploration requires lesson learnt on Earth being deployed to the Moon and eventually to Mars, including in-situ resource utilisation and low impact mining in these pristine environments.
CSIRO Senior Scientist, Dr Jane Hodgkinson, said conversations with Rolls-Royce show an industry already engaged in space activities learning from mining.
“They were there to learn about the mining value chain, keen to understand whether they can be part of the global decarbonisation efforts,” said Jane.
Reducing the waste and environmental footprints from mining is a high priority.
“Ten years ago we were looking for the champions in this area but the message is now out there and the technologies are being sought,” said Jane.
“Our engagement with space exploration people was just brilliant. I think they could see how the challenge of operating in remote and extreme environments on Earth and Space have a connection and that it will develop technologies for one another. We are part of that and it’s exciting!”
The abiding outcome of WMC 2023 was the collective spirit of collaboration for a sector moving to meet global decarbonisation goals. More than just articulating challenges, conference speakers and delegates were already working to find solutions across the whole minerals value chain.
The next World Mining Congress will take place in Peru in 2025.