BLOG Article: The Mining Industry needs Thinkers, not just Doers

In Austmine's Latest eBook: Securing Mining's Future Workforce, our Managing Director Sandy Dunn encourages Mining Companies to engage more thinkers.

The Mining industry has a formidable reputation for getting things done, despite all the obstacles that get in the way.  Perhaps it is due to the geographical isolation associated with mine sites, but miners are a resourceful bunch who almost always find a way to succeed, despite limited support. 

COVID-19 – Challenge or Opportunity?

The situation experienced with COVID-19 is a great example of the mining industry’s resourcefulness.  Despite all the potential health issues associated with FIFO rosters, staff working in close vicinity in remote mining camps, and despite the ever-increasing regulatory requirements affecting travel, quarantine and social distancing, most mining companies have adapted rapidly and implemented changes which have allowed them to continue to operate successfully.  Working rosters have changed, essential activities have been identified and prioritised, non-essential activities have been deferred, working practices have changed, catering practices have changed. 

But what a pity that it has taken an externally induced crisis to initiate these changes.

Despite pockets of isolated large-scale innovation (think “Mines of the Future”, autonomous trucks and trains), the mining industry is slow to implementing innovation as a core aspect of its day-to-day culture.  Every day, many workers in the mining industry simply do what they have to do.  Too few ask “how can I make things better today?”.  Even fewer ask “how does what I do help my organisation to succeed”.  The reality is that many in the mining industry are comfortable in the routine of a day to day existence, and as a result, improvement opportunities are whizzing by at a great rate.  Where mining companies do have improvement initiatives (often driven by large centralised engineering and business improvement teams), these initiatives are often poorly coordinated and the connections between these initiatives and measurable improvements in organisational performance are not clear or missing.

The “reset” brought about by COVID-19 creates an enormous opportunity for mining organisations to change this reality.  Now is the time to think differently, to embrace change and reinvent innovation and improvement practices.  But this will only happen if we empower and enable the workforce to be innovative and equip them with the skills to do so.

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