May 17, 2020

Roy Hill CEO Barry Fitzgerald: Innovation is driving us

mine sites
3 min
CEO of Hancock Prospecting Barry Fitzgerald, left, with GIna Rhinehart, center, and Roy Hill Project Manager Sanjiv Manchanda.
At Austmine 2015: Transforming Mining in Brisbane last week,Barry Fitzgerald, CEO of Roy Hill shared the latest insightsfrom the exciting iron ore proje...

At Austmine 2015: Transforming Mining in Brisbane last week, Barry Fitzgerald, CEO of Roy Hill shared the latest insights from the exciting iron ore project in Western Australia. Roy Hill is the only Australian major independent iron ore project that is majority Australian owned, and has over 5000 people working on site currently, with over 6500 employed on site total.

• Related content: TOP 10: Mining Innovations to Look Forward To

Barry kicked off his presentation by confessing: “We’re a great pretender”. He went on to explain this, noting he would be talking about robotics throughout his presentation, but of course Roy Hill are not in serious production yet.

However, to get to the stage that Roy Hill are currently at in their project, they have had to go through over 4000 discrete approvals, 230 weeks submitting of approvals, and 282 weeks under consideration.

Barry noted: “We do need to recognize in times like this that our focus on productivity also needs to include the regulatory burden.”

Roy Hill is of course a greenfield operation. Barry pointed out this provides them with an excellent opportunity, as they can “build what we need now to easily incorporate innovation and technology later.” This will inherently give Roy Hill the ability to adapt to future conditions and provide flexibility in how they approach operations and processes.

Roy Hill prides itself on a thinking culture that is focused on productivity. They believe that innovative thinking drives business and productivity improvements and cost optimization. They have embraced technology as a core element to be able to deliver 55 Mtpa of iron ore to their customers, competitively. They have built a culture of innovation by encouraging and empowering people, combining cross industry thoughts and processes and encouraging genuine collaboration with suppliers.

This collaboration with suppliers feeds into Roy Hill’s integrated supply and demand approach. They want to maximize availability on the supply side, so keep their contractors and suppliers focused on that. This is partly done through an integrated optimization of systems, such as their maintenance interface point. Barry referred to this interface as the “genesis of looking backwards to our suppliers and contractors.”

Roy Hill is currently utilizing drones on a small scale on their project. Barry noted the current pilot of drones is a precursor to where Roy Hill sees itself going in relation to gathering data.  Examples of their planned innovation in action included large octocopter drones to enable Lidar scanning, thermal scanning of plant bearings and live streaming of footage to their remote operations center. The use of drones can significantly drive down operational costs, in a variety of ways such as relocation of staff to the Remote Operations Centre, rather than on site.

• Related content: Interview with BHP Billiton: How the Mining Giant Employs Tech Innovations

Roy Hill’s IT platform is a commercial off the shelf product, which Barry noted reflects how much they trust their vendors, but it’s also had the important benefit of reducing their costs.

Being a new organization Roy Hill doesn’t have the silo issues faced by most other miners. Barry noted this has the flow through effect of not being encumbered by a proliferation of systems in their IT/OT space. It is one business, with one system with standardization to ensure data integrity and usability. 

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Dec 16, 2020

Zimbabwe targets £8.8bn mining industry by 2023

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Government plans to fast-track exploration, evaluation and digitalisation of selected reserved mining areas
Government plans to fast-track exploration, evaluation and digitalisation of selected reserved mining areas...

Zimbabwe’s government plans to fast-track exploration, evaluation and digitalisation of selected reserved mining areas under the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development as part of wider measures to achieve a £8.8 billion mining industry by 2023, according to a senior government minister.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said other plans include stopping the issuance of special grants in the reserved areas under the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development until the exploration and evaluation is complete and a robust value addition program for diamonds is implemented. 

Mutsvangwa was speaking at a post-cabinet media briefing on December 15.

She adds that the issuance and renewal of special grants for energy should also be based on the financial and technical capacity to value add all types of coal, as well as for ideal exploration of Coal Bed Methane.

For renewal of special grants, consideration should take into account the period the Special Grant has been held as well as plans with milestones for value addition of the special grant, Mutsvangwa says. She adds that the Zimbabwean government expects gold to drive the mining sector in order to achieve the ambitious target, with the precious metal expected to contribute approximately £2.96 billion to the overall target.

Mining is one of Zimbabwe’s major contributors to its economy, alongside agriculture, which is the mainstay. The mining sector accounted for more than 60 percent of the country’s foreign currency receipts in 2019, and contributed around 16 percent to national Gross Domestic Product, the Chamber of Mines says.

The country’s mining industry is focused on a diverse range of small to medium mining operations. The most important minerals produced in Zimbabwe include gold, asbestos, chromite, coal and base metals.

Zimbabwe expects its economy to expand by 7.4 percent in 2021 from a projected contraction of 4.5 percent this year, due to the effects of drought and the COVID-19 global pandemic.

When presenting the 2021 National Budget in November this year, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said that the mining sector is projected to rebound by 11 percent next year after surviving a COVID-19 induced shock that saw the sector contract by 4.7 percent in 2020. In September, mining bans in national parks were introduced, according to news agencies.

He added that the National Budget would allocate £1 billion towards the operations of the ministry for planning, promotion and exploration, data capturing, and automation, among other key mining processes.

Other factors necessary for the achievement of the £8.8 billion target include a stable macroeconomic environment, policy consistency, and availability of long-term capital to fund mining projects along the entire mineral value chain, the minister said. 

Stopping "illicit financial flows" from gold smuggling is another key issue to address, according to media reports.

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