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Editorial comment

For the last 20 months, the global pandemic has rocked every single sector globally, and Australia’s mining, oil, and gas sectors have not been immune from this. From Australia’s international border closure to several state lockdowns impacting the sector’s fly-in fly-out working arrangements, the industry has been challenged in more ways than one. And this is on top of other key issues, including the nation’s productivity crisis, as well as the ongoing push for decarbonisation and a ‘greener’ and more socially conscious approach to mining.

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Despite ongoing pressures faced by the sector, the future for the mining, oil, and gas industries is very bright. However, there are several challenges keeping mining leaders up at night, including: CAPEX squeezes; rising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns; and the need for robust digital architecture to facilitate automation and data analytics.

According to the Equinix Mining Technology Report 2021 – 2022, 93% of mining leaders plan to ramp up their digitalisation efforts in 2022, with almost 44% saying they will significantly increase technology investments. More importantly, technology has been identified as crucial to overcoming critical challenges in mining, including driving the ESG agenda and CAPEX management.

Digitalisation is making mines safer for miners by reducing the need for human input in high-risk processes. More advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are also providing increasingly sophisticated insights to improve efficiency, safety, and compliance.

However, in order for these benefits to be realised, miners need fast, reliable connectivity. This is partially due to the highly remote nature of mining sites, and partially because the majority of projects today require co-operation and collaboration between multiple parties, who are often distributed geographically. Robust digital architecture is vital to successful automation and real-time data analysis, as mine sites generate and capture significant volumes of data daily.

According to Equinix’s research, Australia’s mine expansions are being fuelled by collaboration. Partnerships – whether in the form of acquisitions, joint ventures, or other forms of collaboration – are expected to contribute 25% of projected growth in 2022.

The adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud services has been critical to enabling increased local and cross-border collaborations for Australian miners. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twins, and other collaborative technologies that deliver greater visibility to mining partnerships benefit from the flexibility and scalability of hybrid and multi-cloud environments. In today’s cloud environment, mining, oil, and gas companies can easily connect, transfer and share data, whether with headquarters, remote operating centres or partners, in order to facilitate smoother collaboration.

This is a huge boon to companies facing ore replacement challenges and ESG concerns. Increased collaboration means Australian miners can look forward to the discovery and development of new ore bodies to meet surging demand. Furthermore, with regard to ESG goals, strategic partnerships with providers of cutting-edge green technologies have helped Australia’s resources sector accelerate decarbonisation efforts and meet community and investor expectations for sustainability.

For the Australian mining industry to continue to move forward and grow, mining, oil, and gas companies need to ensure they are in the best place possible to make the most of emerging market opportunities through better connectivity, smart adoption and implementation of technology, and collaboration with partners. This way, miners can hone a competitive edge by taking a digital-first approach to the future.