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Is the Mining Industry Ready for a Technology Revolution?

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The latest episode of the Full Production podcast was a bit unique, as my guest wasn’t somebody who explicitly worked in the mining industry. It was still, however, incredibly stimulating and entirely relevant to the work that we do.

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Milford. Daniel is Managing Director of Chironix, a Perth-based company that’s using innovative technologies like robotics and data engineering to revolutionise how we do business in Australia and elsewhere. He helps his clients run a range of virtual machines or models to provide unique insight and analytics — just to name one example of the work he does.

We talked about a lot of things — the ethics of new technology and how Australia can use these new innovations to excel on the world stage, for example. But one of the key questions that I asked myself after our discussion was this: how can the mining industry benefit from all of the new technology we’re seeing in our world?

There are a few concrete situations. Chironix is partnered with Google X, the division of Google that created Google Glass. This is a pair of glasses that are essentially a smartphone you wear. They provide real-time information on things that you see in front of you.

While Google Glass hasn’t really taken off for the mass-market consumer, there are a lot of ways we could use it in our industry. This technology can help reduce the cognitive load of a site supervisor, meaning that it can remind him or her of tasks to be completed so that they can focus on other things. It can feed information to them while they’re taking care of other tasks. The point is that it allows someone to “attend to information while being present”.

I think it’s brilliant. But I’m not the kind of person that needs to be convinced. What we need in our industry, I believe, is a change in the way we view technology. Most of us in the mining industry are well-spoken in technology. But how many of us have an open mind when it comes to things like machine learning and robotics? I would say that plenty of people we know would scoff at these notions, calling them unnecessary inventions of a younger generation.

As Daniel told me, “any process can be improved”. Just because what we’re doing has worked for a number of years doesn’t mean we can’t make it work better.

I think a big part of why we’re resistant to these sorts of innovations is that we don’t really trust younger generations. We see the newer hires that come in as entitled too hinged to their phones and other technology.

But this younger generation has a lot of skills that we lack. They’re much better with technology, and understand how to navigate our increasingly connected world in a way that we don’t.

We should ask ourselves this: What can we learn from tomorrow’s generation, and how can technology help us do our jobs better?

Listen to my entire conversation with Daniel here.