Spotlight shines on ‘reserved’ mining services firms at IMARC

Mining services companies have been called on to better communicate their stories to the broader investment community to attract the capital required to bring their technologies into the market.

On the third and final day of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney, innovators in the Mining Equipment, Technology, and Services (METS) sector have been petitioned to be less reserved and more business-minded and engaging.

The keynote panel discussion titled ‘Connecting Technology and Investment: How this will Drive Innovation’, heard from investors and product developers on the challenges they see facing the METS sector.

Attendees heard that investors themselves – whether venture capitalists or operators – need to take a more collaborative approach towards sharing IP to create an environment that encourages innovation and at the same time need to be prepared for failures.

RCF Jolimont Mining Innovation Director Charles Gillies said Australia’s METS sector is struggling to tell its story to both customers and the wider community, unlike exploration companies and mine developers.

Gillies explained that Australia ranks amongst the best in the world when it comes to innovation in engineering but lamented the fact the broader market is largely unaware of the industry’s achievements and global leadership.

“This lack of storytelling results in poorer outcomes for operators as great innovations and valuable ideas end up not being implemented and ultimately forgotten

“This lack of storytelling results in poorer outcomes for operators as great innovations and valuable ideas end up not being implemented and ultimately forgotten.”

RFC Ambrian Executive Chairman Rob Adamson reflected on why the METS sector has not embraced storytelling in the same way as other sectors have.

“Scientists don’t want to be entrepreneurs and miners don’t want research programs on their sites, so therefore only 10% of really good science makes it into industry.”

The panel also reflected on issues where long-term employees of mining companies often rejected new technology that challenged or refuted traditional ways of operating or highlighted either inefficient or less-accurate models or systems.

According to the panel, the way forward is for the METS sector to improve its ‘soft’ approach or lack of interpersonal skills to breakdown these barriers and encourage collaboration, which in turn will lead to greater investment.

Adamson said: “If you fail because there is something fundamentally wrong with your technology, that’s okay. If it fails because of something you can influence or change, that’s deeply disappointing. Too often people are unwilling to accept new innovation because it goes against their own routine and that’s really hard to change.”

The panel also discussed the importance of getting underlying business operations right to secure investment.

The panellists agreed that the inclination of some operators to lock everything up under confidentiality agreements was stifling innovation.

Innovators, they said, need to understand the size of a potential market, where the pain points of an operator are and how they can be solved in a practical manner. 

Gillies added: “We often see the operators putting their foot on IP by restricting access to everything. It is unreasonable to assume that innovators are willing to invest the time and effort into projects without knowing the size of the problem or the level of competition within the sector.”

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Written By Adam Orlando Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.