Now is the time for the mining industry in Australia to adopt innovation and look at different ways of operating, according to Austmine chair Elizabeth Lewis-Gray. With the entire industry struggling due to depressed coal and metals prices, high costs and lack of capital, mining companies and providers of equipment and services must alter their practices in order to survive.

Elizabeth Lewis-Gray raised these issues and spoke about the importance of innovation during a joint meeting of the AusIMM Sydney Branch and WIMnet NSW in Sydney recently. A key point in her presentation was that a lot of innovation is not taken seriously by the mining industry.

She said there were many METS (mining equipment, technology and services) companies in Australia providing innovative products or services but which had difficulty making a mark in Australia, with many having to do business overseas in order to survive and grow.

The Austmine chair is also managing director of METS company Gekko and chair of the Federal Government’s METS Industry Growth Sector task force. During the Sydney meeting she said: “The METS sector represents innovation and opportunity for Australia and, in particular its mining industry.

Knowledge turns innovation into value. We are in an innovation cycle and this presents a big opportunity for the future.

“It is a difficult time for all associated with the mining industry and now is a very important time for resetting in order to bring costs down. Mining needs to look at different platforms, especially innovation.”

Elizabeth Lewis-Gray said a recent Austmine survey showed that the value of the METS sector to the Australian economy was in excess of $90 billion. The survey identified that 58% of METS companies spend money on research and development while 55% of the companies export their goods and/or services.

“We must now consider where we want Australia to be in the future. We need to make Australia a global hub for innovation and this can be done through the METS industry.”

With this in mind, the METS Industry Growth Sector task force held a series of consultation meetings around Australia last month with the aim of engaging and consulting with interested stakeholders to discuss improving productivity and developing Australia’s sustainable competitive advantage.

A report from these meetings will be presented to the Federal Government next month with the aim of determining the future direction of the METS sector and a possible extension of government support. or