27 July How COVID-19 could change mining for the better July 27, 2020 By AMPLA Admin Industry, Mining COVID-19, mining, transformation, workforce 0 The mining industry was deemed an essential service by the Government, which has enabled it to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this hasn’t been without its challenges. New processes and procedures were required to address safety and social distancing and issues of supply and worker mobility have impacted how the industry operates. But with adversity comes opportunity and the mining industry has thrived and realised the potential for new improvements amidst the pandemic. Technological transformation has accelerated The need to leverage technology has always been important to the industry, but it is now a necessity that is driving increased investment. For some organisations this has meant accelerating digital projects that were in progress, while others have looked at their existing technology and operationalised new use cases. This has been facilitated in part by the introduction of agile working methods that have enabled mining companies to bring new projects into existence much quicker than in the past. Extended feasibility studies, evaluations and bureaucracy have given way to trialling new methods out of necessity. Some of the technologies increasing in use include automated and connected technologies. For example, Fortescue is now working towards an entirely automated vehicle fleet in the Pilbara. They are also upskilling 3,000 workers to master automation technology for the future. The changing face of the workforce Traditionally, mining has relied on mobile workforces that can fly-in and fly-out (FIFO) when required. With mobility restricted as a result of the pandemic, organisations have had to be innovative in their approach. For some this has involved reviewing how to retrain staff to operate remotely, while others have looked to technology to enable and in somes cases replace staff. Where there is a hard border close, like that instigated in Western Australia, FIFO models aren’t possible. As a result companies have had to review hiring patterns and models to maintain and support workforces. For example, mining towns started to disappear with FIFO business models, but they may soon be rejuvenated to enable proximity to workplaces. Other organisations are leveraging technology to enable remote work to continue. For example, BHP has introduced remote-in, remote-out (RiRo) arrangements. Using wearable mixed reality devices, teams can provide assistance to auto electricians and mechanical fitters based thousands of kilometres away. This not only provides the immediate benefit of skills being accessible to fix equipment immediately when needed, but also potentially saves the organisation significant costs associated with FIFO arrangements with engineers able to see what’s happening in the field in real-time without leaving their home or office. The shift to remote working has also extended to senior management. While previously flying from site to site across the world was commonplace, most are now running their business from home thanks to digital technology. Like other industries, this has highlighted potential efficiencies that could continue seamlessly in a post-COVID-19 world. For Australian manufacturers supplying to the industry, they’ve also needed to protect their workforce to ensure production can continue. For example, Fenner Dunlop, who produces conveyor products, has gone beyond the required protocols of distancing and hygiene, to monitor and support the mental health of their staff and families by providing hampers and play packs for children. Strengthening supply chains With international borders closing and supply of some critical materials at a premium, the importance of supply chain relationships has come to the fore. Some organisations have looked at how they can partner with communities to build relationships. For example, BHP has established a Vital Resources Fund to support local businesses and communities in Australia. Other organisations have contributed PPE and worked with governments to establish health facilities and testing centres. By increasing their social capital, mining companies are cementing their position in communities. A strategy that will no doubt work in their favour when they need to compete for resources and labour in the future. For local producers, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for them to ramp up production but changes have also had to be made. Flexco is an Australian manufacturer who has had to plan for the closure of its two warehouses in Sydney and Perth. It managed this by moving containers of materials to remote locations so they could be left there if needed and enable mining activities to continue even if they have to shutdown. New opportunities exist While many industries are suffering, demand for certain commodities like iron ore, copper and nickel are likely to increase due to significant infrastructure spending by governments across the globe. This increases the opportunity for businesses in the industry who can either expand production or pivot to increase their exposure to high-demand commodities. According to PwC the world’s top 40 mining companies have fared better through COVID-19 then many other sectors and organisations. They’re taking what they’ve learnt through this difficult time and leveraging it to improve their operations permanently. This is a trend that we hope to see continue even once we’re through the pandemic, as innovation will only continue to strengthen the industry Related Articles COMMUNITY LEGAL RIGHTS IN MINE CLOSURE PLANNING; A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THREE AUSTRALIAN STATES Professor Alex Gardner, University of Western Australia Law School, and Laura Hamblin, formerly research associate at the UWA Law School, 2021 Why does the Mining Act 1978 (WA) not provide secure legal rights for community consultation in relation to mining lease proposals and mine closure plans? Addressing this question presents an important theme for this comparative review of some core features of the regulatory frameworks for mine closure in three Australian States. It also raises important questions for future legal research. Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria have prominent but vastly different, and thus uniquely significant, mining industries. Western Australia’s mining industry has a long history of large and smaller scale mining of a diverse range of minerals by various methods that pose significant mine rehabilitation challenges.[i] Queensland’s mining industry is similarly large and diverse, dominated by export coal production, and planning future minerals development in a decarbonising world.[ii] Victoria has a smaller mining industry with a large historical legacy dominated by a coal mining industry for domestic electricity generation in the Latrobe Valley, which is closing as the State actively transitions to renewable power sources.[iii] These States also have significant differences in the regulation of their mining industries. What all three States do have in common is the significance of their mining industries to both the State economy and the communities who depend on or live near mining operations. Importantly, all three States are confronting large legal and regulatory challenges in managing mine rehabilitation and closure. The key to addressing these challenges is effective mine closure planning: the closure of a mine site has ripple effects that are not merely environmental and economic, but social and cultural too. The initial approval of a mine closure plan occurs before any mining has begun and, with the life cycle of a mine often spanning decades, regulatory bodies are approving hypothetical closure scenarios, potentially subject to vast changes. Regulatory bodies may then seek to enforce closure requirements enshrined in a plan that may wane in relevance as mining operations progress, the updating of which may depend on the miner. Yet remedying the regulatory system so that it creates adaptable but consistently effective mine closure outcomes for affected communities still begins at planning. Although that planning is an iterative process across the life of the mine, it is very important at the initial stage of approval. Recent legislative reforms in all three States are adding to the regulatory rigour and adaptability of mine closure planning, though there are very different legal requirements for community consultation. This article aims to explain and assess the regulatory reforms by undertaking a comparative analysis of mine closure planning across Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria, with a focus on the initial approval stage and how stakeholders and communities are brought into that process. The facilitation of continuous and comprehensive community engagement is critical to ensuring that mine closure planning accounts for environmental, economic, social, cultural and safety outcomes after mine closure, but it has not been possible to consider here the process of ongoing mine closure planning, especially for amending mine closure plans and determining satisfaction of mine closure plans leading to resource tenure relinquishment.[iv] The article begins by considering core concepts of mine closure planning and the regulatory goals that inform it. It then provides a comparative overview of each State’s mine closure planning requirements under the mineral resources, environmental and land use planning laws and draws out some of the different regulatory structures and processes for mine closure within each State. The third step in our analysis compares the ways in which those laws provide for local communities’ participation in mine closure planning, with specific attention to whether the regulatory provisions create legally enforceable rights for effective community engagement. The article concludes with a summary of the key points from the discussion of three themes in our analysis: (i) the importance of clear definitions of core concepts and key goals, (ii) mine closure planning as an essential part of a mining proposal, and (iii) the legal definition of community engagement and consultation rights. Mine closure planning and implementation is necessarily influenced by many other spheres of law including taxation law, investment law, water law, and the rights of traditional owners, to name a few. A potentially directly relevant Commonwealth law is the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), which may require environmental impact assessment of a mining proposal and closure plan and lead to approval conditions supplementing State requirements.[v] Whilst acknowledging the importance of these adjacent spheres of the regulatory frameworks for effective mine closure planning, this article does not attempt to address their impact. In particular, the rights of Traditional Custodians are a crucial part of mine closure planning that are only briefly noted here and that would benefit from future research. WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Major Commodities Review 2022-23”. Qld Government, Department of Resources, Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan, June 022. Vic Government, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy. See L Hamblin, A Gardner, Y Haigh, Mapping the Regulatory Framework of Mine Closure, May 2022, CRC TiME, for a broader exploration of the full life cycle of mine closure regulation. In Buzzacott v Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities  FCAFC 111; (2013) 214 FCR 301, , -, referring to the range of approval conditions, which included mine closure. In setting conditions under the EPBC Act, the Commonwealth Minister must consider any relevant conditions under State or Territory law: at  citing Lansen v Minister for Environment and Heritage (2008) 174 FCR 14. How foreign investment changes may impact the mining and energy sector In early June 2020, the government announced a review of the foreign investment rules, expanding them to apply to all foreign investors in anything deemed a ‘sensitive national security business’. The changes are scheduled to come into effect on 1 January 2021. There are concerns that this will impact foreign investment in the mining and energy sectors, and in particular the critical minerals space. Climate change action is being driven by business and industry While everyone’s focus in recent months has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change was top of everyone’s mind when the year began with bushfires ravaging Australia. The pandemic has seen individuals and organisations assess their ideologies and perspectives on a range of topics, climate change being one of them. It now seems that climate change is back on everyone’s agenda and none more so than business and industry. What is concerning mining and metals industry executives today? Recent surveys conducted in the mining and metals industry sector indicate that climate change, price volatility and the risk of a global depression are the top concerns for executives. The KMPG Mining Risk Forecast 2020/21 Report nominates climate change and price risks as top-of-mind for executives while a mid-year survey by White & Case found that the fear of a global recession was the most common concern amongst those surveyed. It’s worth noting that the KMPG survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the concerns raised have ongoing relevance both now and into the future. Digital transformation in mining and energy As the global shift to remote work gathers pace, it is more important than ever that the mining and energy sector embraces technology. But a digital transformation offers more than flexible working arrangements. It has the potential to drastically cut down on industrial accidents, optimise operational processes and slash costs. New innovations in mining Showing 0 Comment Comments are closed.