AUSTRALIAN miners should consider collaborating with other industries for critical innovations if they are not already, according to Rio Tinto’s Operational and Technical Support, Copper and Diamonds, vice president Dr Craig Stegman. He said Australian miners would do well to look at research and development being carried out in other industries to find innovative solutions to operational challenges.

In an interview ahead of Craig Stegman’s appearance at the ‘Austmine 2017: Mining’s Innovation Imperative’ conference in May, the Rio Tinto leader spoke at length about his company’s attitude towards digital innovation and about how mining equipment, technology and services (METS) firms can take advantage.

Craig Stegman said Rio Tinto had previously engaged with industries in the automotive, aeronautical, energy, biomedical and IT industries. “Australian miners may find opportunities by aligning themselves towards non-mining industries to gain additional insights to solve challenges.

“These industries support rich and vibrant innovation cultures that are focused on emerging trends relevant to the mining industry, and they seem to be able to move very quickly,” he said.

Craig Stegman will be presenting in the ‘Securing our Competitive Future through Continual Innovation’ session alongside Minerals Council of Australia chair Dr Vanessa Guthrie presenting ‘Driving Innovation for Business Gain – An Industry Perspective’; and Roy Hill Mine CEO Barry Fitzgerald presenting ‘Roy Hill: Aligning Innovation with the Business’.

Craig Stegman’s topic of choice, ‘Innovation in the Copper Industry – Necessity and Opportunity’ will provide a fascinating insight into how mining firms with critical challenges can collaborate internally and externally to develop solutions.

Craig Stegman said Rio Tinto always had time to listen to promising new ideas but also actively sought out promising solutions. “We have an open door policy on new ideas pitches,” he said.

“The interaction with original equipment manufacturers and suppliers is quite healthy when we have people and industries communicating. They share their concepts and we can talk about our technical issues.”

Craig Stegman’s team last year took a trip to the MINExpo convention and exhibition in Las Vegas, the world’s biggest mining exhibition, where they came away with at least 10 high-quality ideas to develop exclusively or in partnership with suppliers. It’s also why he accepted the invite to present at Austmine 2017.

The ‘Austmine 2017: Mining’s Innovation Imperative’ conference will be held from May 22-24 at the Perth Conference and Exhibition Centre in Western Australia. It is the nation’s premier conference for showcasing the best technological innovations in the resource industries.