Understanding complexities of future mineral supply

Understanding complexities of future mineral supply

28 August 2018

The greatest challenge facing the resources sector is the projected growth in the worldwide demand for raw materials and the inability of recycling to meet those needs.

Neville Plint, director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at University of Queensland and a keynote speaker at this year’s conference, expands on why this conference is so timely.

1. Why is the Complex Orebodies conference so timely and important for the industry?

The conference is timely because the mining industry is reaching a crossroads in which there is a realisation that we can’t continue to operate the way we have in the past. We need to come to terms with the range of complexities facing modern mineral projects and develop tools to address the social, environmental and technical challenges that are locking up future mineral supply. Those tools and approaches are going to be solved by multidisciplinary teams that work across the mining value chain, and this realisation is really at the heart of the Complex Orebodies Conference.

2. Who will the conference content appeal to?

The conference has a very broad appeal. Anyone who is interested in the challenges facing maintenance of future mineral supply will find something of interest there. We have sessions looking at challenges and solutions in the social, environmental, business and technical areas, and we also have a strong set of keynote presentations from widely respected industry and academic speakers who have thought deeply about complexity in the minerals industry and innovative approaches that can take the industry to the level of performance it needs to achieve in order to ensure future mineral supply. No matter what their area of specialisation, attendees at the conference will come away with a better understanding of complexity as it applies to the whole mining value chain.

3. How is the UQ SMI addressing the challenge of recovering raw materials from increasingly complex orebodies?

UQ SMI has identified several cross-disciplinary programs aimed at addressing key research and development needs in the mining industry, and as part of that we have received strategic funding from the University to carry out the 5-year Complex Orebodies research program in collaboration with the rest of the UQ Mining sector as well as with our industry partners. We have programs underway addressing transformative approaches and technologies in environmental, social and technical areas, and we are well on the way to developing an understanding of the range of risks and solutions applicable to many of the major commodities that are critical to our future. UQ has recently been ranked in first place in the Shanghai rankings for Mining and Mineral Engineering, and the SMI and its UQ partners have world class capability covering the entire mining value chain, so we are well-placed to lead the world in this key area of research.

4. You are delivering a keynote address at the conference. What will your presentation cover?

The Complex Orebodies program came about as a result of extensive consultation and discussion with a broad range of very smart and experienced people who have come from very different experience bases and who have thought very deeply about the ways to improve the mineral industry. I would like to give the audience some insight into some of the outcomes of that consultative process, and in so doing hopefully give them some food for thought. As an industry, we cover a broad range of specialties, and it is only natural for us to develop the impression that solutions in our area are more important than others. One thing that has become abundantly clear from the work we have done to date is that we need a very broad and multidisciplinary roadmap in order to make progress in this area, and I plan to make a strong case for this.

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