Laura Tyler at World Mining Congress

We hear the term ‘transformation’ a lot lately – because it is a time of great change in the world. The pace of change, driven and enabled by technology, is increasing. And so it’s appropriate that we’re here talking about transformations in mining. But what is it that we’re transforming to? What are we seeking to become?

The world is starting to wake up to the role of the resources sector to support the global trends that are changing the world.

These trends will feed demand for metals and minerals for decades to come.

But new deposits are harder to come by.

What remains is deeper, harder to find, more difficult to access, or in more challenging locations.

And we have to produce those commodities in those locations with less – less energy, less water, less waste, less disruption – a fraction of the impacts traditionally caused by intensive mining activity.

I would ask us all to stand in the future for a moment – what do we see?

I see people removed from the line of fire, reducing both the risk of both safety and health impacts as we automate the work we do.

I see value chains with automated decision processes that lead to reduced power and water use and improve our productivity, contributing to responsible mining, and enhancing our ability to increase return on capital every day.

I see the democratisation of data with citizen developers throughout the value chain making processes run more efficiently, and digital twins enabling accurate prediction of problems to allow better maintenance and operational upgrades.

Under this vision, the processes we will be working on will be fundamentally different – we will have solved for in situ recovery, we will have eliminated energy hungry mill and float to use new and different ways to liberate the minerals we seek.

In doing so, we will have the ability to produce the commodities we need with a fraction of the waste, and whatever waste we do produce, can be repurposed into useful products.

Our power will have zero greenhouse gas emissions – and I believe nuclear energy will be a part of the baseload mix in the global elimination of carbon emissions rich energy.

As more of our systems and decisions are automated, we will become the orchestrators of improvement and innovation – the skills we need for the future must embrace highly digital operational and project management as the way we deliver value and efficiency.

We will fundamentally change what we consider to be an attractive resource.

The sub 0.5% copper resources of tomorrow will be just as attractive as the 2% copper resources of yesterday, delivering the critical minerals the world needs to decarbonise at low cost.

This means the mine waste of the past, will become some of the new resources of the future.

As we stand in the future I see an exciting, safe and automated sector, valued by society for the types of work it provides.

How do we set ourselves up to do this? At BHP we want to Think and Act Differently. But we also need to do it with urgency.

So how do we build a solution? What are we doing in BHP?

The solution

It’s been said before that data is the new gold – but we have to know how to use it.

Every mining operator generates reams of data. But it is how this information is captured, distilled, analysed, stored and used that makes the difference. You get out what you put in – quality outputs from quality inputs – or the alternative, garbage in, garbage out.

The opportunity – the prize – is clearly massive.

But there is no change without innovation.

Building the ecosystem

Firstly, we need to expand the ecosystem of ideas that we are exposed to – we are not in every pool of expertise, but we must be more open to conversations and ideas than ever before.

We know that not every good idea is our own idea.

I’m sure all the companies, universities, research groups represented here today have some very smart people working for them. We certainly do at BHP. But we know that the world of ideas is broader than our own company or our own industry.

And so we’re looking outwards to build an ecosystem of ideas, with a partnership mindset. So what have we done…

We are changing the way we work…

BHP Innovation has adopted an open innovation model, we are transparent about the ambitious opportunities and challenges we are working on and invite collaborators from universities, industry peers, adjacent industries and start-ups to join us.

We work with expert scanning and scouting partners, as well as ecosystem collaborators, like Deloitte’s new GreenSpace Tech ecosystem or MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program including their Startup Exchange.

We want to accelerate the technology development roadmaps of our partners and share in their success, not lock up their IP or restrict their growth potential.

We intend to Think and Act Differently in all our interactions.

We are also willing to invest.

BHP Ventures, our own Venture Capital arm, has been in action now for about 3 years. It is focused on emerging technologies that can help grow and improve our existing operations, our resource base, and our value chain.

It has screened more than 1,200 opportunities and built a high-quality global portfolio of over 20 holdings and continues to go from strength to strength.

We are thinking and acting differently about exploration.

Our exploration accelerator, BHP Xplor, merges concepts from venture capital and early-stage accelerators. We announced BHP Xplor in August 2022 and had many applications from all around the world, focused on the discovery of copper, nickel and other critical minerals. We’ve worked with seven companies, to provide funding and support to accelerate their growth. Wave 2 is coming soon…and I hope that all those from our first cohort can speak to this as a positive experience.

Operationally we also seek to be different, we have evolved our relationships with many of our vendors – we seek to partner to solve some of our biggest opportunities… this maybe quite tactical such as the partnership between Minerals America Technology, Escondida Operations and Microsoft to improve Escondida Concentrator recoveries…

A program that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, to combine real-time plant data from the concentrators and AI-based recommendations from Microsoft’s Azure platform to feed our operations team information so they can adjust variables that affect ore processing and grade recovery.

This is the building of an eco-system, the setting of a foundation of partnerships and ways of working that is different – so what is that making possible.

What it’s delivering

Using these ecosystems, we must use data to drive solutions to make systems run better.

Partnering on tech and innovation is making our sites safer and more sustainable as we think and act differently to deliver real results.

One of the best ways we can reduce safety risks is through removing people from the frontline.

Where we have implemented truck automation at Jimblebar and Newman in Western Australia, there has been a 90% reduction in near miss events involving vehicles with a fatality potential.

We have extended automation to our fleets in Western Australia and here in Queensland and we are in implementation at Spence and Escondida in Chile.

Decision automation using real time data feeds from on the board fleet management systems provides a more efficient and productive result, shift in and shift out, delivering more safe tonnes per truck per year.

The advance of autonomous haulage by OEMs like Komatsu, Caterpillar – delivered in partnership with companies such as BHP are the first stage for decarbonisation…

The next stage is zero emission trucks…and at BHP we are investing in electric – even as we watch the hydrogen journey like hawks. We have a great partnership with Caterpillar and have a prototype truck running about in Arizona. We have advanced plans that consider trolley assists, recharging station distribution and dynamic charging as a part of the mine design of the future. Anna Wiley has presented BHPs vision of the electrified future here this week.

We can only create future value by through strong partnerships with our OEMs.

The other side of the equation is the need for sensible, innovative solutions to be shared for the collective benefit of the sector.

Our Operation and Technology teams at our Newman operation recently won their category at the Safety Excellence Awards run by the Western Australian government, for a remotely operated thermal lance for removing debris jams in crushers. It connects to a boom, meaning no more handheld thermal lances, removing people from potential harm from uncontrolled energy release.

/Public Release. View in full here.