Q&A: Rio Tinto’s Warrick Ranson, Head of Productivity Development, Technology and Innovation
Warrick Ranson, Head of Productivity Development, Technology and Innovation at Rio Tinto is the opening Keynote speaker at Austmine's stream at the IMARC 2015 conference in Melbourne on 10 - 12 November.
In advance of the event, Austmine caught up with Warrick to get his insights into some critical issues facing both miners and mining equipment, technology and service providers (METS) in the current market environment.
Why does Rio Tinto feel so passionately about industry collaboration between miners and mining equipment, technology and service providers?
At Rio Tinto, collaboration is fundamental in driving some of the technology initiatives that are moving our industry forward. Our innovation focus incorporates new ideas and ways to drive productivity through creating and adapting new and existing technologies. We cannot do this without our technology partners and service providers – we are a strong believer in the ‘not invented here’ approach.
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In March last year we opened our Excellence Centre in Brisbane. In conjunction with our process engineers, analytics teams and external partners we are now able to examine real-time plant data to provide expert solution to operations.
Another example of successful collaboration is with the University of Sydney where we focus on mine automation with one of the world’s largest privately funded external robotics initiatives. Through this collaboration we are able to capitalize on initiatives being applied in industries such as manufacturing, aerospace and logistics.
Where do you see the best opportunity for improved collaboration within the industry?
The foundation to Rio Tinto’s success as one of the biggest mining companies in the world is our people. Technology is nothing without the people who develop, test and operate it. We need to collectively think about our approach to identifying, harnessing, developing and retaining core skills required to efficiently and effectively run mining operations--both now and for future generations. Education is fundamental when it comes to developing expertise and we need to work collaboratively with our academic partners to ensure graduates are industry-ready, particularly as we continue to introduce new technologies.
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How can we as a sector better incorporate research and development institutions into the entire mining innovation value chain?
Rio Tinto has been a strong supporter of world class research institutions. However, the sector needs to remain agile to respond to the highs and lows of our industries cycles. Research and development facilities tend to be models of stability, entering into longer term partnerships. Shorter term partnerships and more flexible models would better assist the mining value chain.
Why are conferences such as IMARC 2015 imperative to furthering sector collaboration?
Conferences such as IMARC create an environment for bringing together prominent cross-sector stakeholders. These conferences give us the opportunity to share our story and ultimately encourage collaboration within the sector.
Warrick will be speaking in the Austmine conference stream at IMARC on "Driving Productivity through Strategic Partnerships". Also speaking in the Austmine stream are Newcrest, Gold Fields, PanAust, Glencore, Mandalay Resources, MMG, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Sandvik, Sedgman and more.
Previously posted on Austmine.com.au
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”