NSW METS In Focus Webinar
METS experts have offered their perspectives on changes to operations in the sector, during and post-COVID.
This timely webinar featured presentations from guest expert speakers Stephen Galilee, CEO, NSW Minerals Council; Andrew Rouse, Chief Technology Officer, PYBAR; and Abdul Jarrah, Executive General Manager Australia, Thiess.
A panel segment moderated by Chris Gibbs Stewart, CEO, Austmine followed, with the addition of Adrian Beer, CEO, METS Ignited to the pool of experts.
The panel discussed what has changed in the industry, the current landscape and potential ramifications, challenges and opportunities for METS companies both now and in the future.
The following is a short summary of salient points touched upon by the experts during this webinar. If you would like to access the event in full, go to the Austmine site here.
GOVERNMENT AND LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT
Recognition of the adaptability and value in the METS sector has been reflected in the support of governments. A strong current focus by several ministers on fostering investment and jobs means there is a positive outlook for the sector.
The recently released NSW Government Coal Strategy supports coal exports out of NSW, with experts predicting demand will remain strong for a minimum 20-30 years. This strategy complements the Australia's Critical Minerals Strategy released in early 2019. These two critical documents predict continued prosperity for the industry.
The health and safety ethos deeply embedded in daily METS practice was recognised as a giving the sector a distinct head start over many other enterprise areas when it came to adapting to COVID protocols.
Although this proactivity and fast adaptation has resulted in the sector being subject to less restrictions than others, it is likely national protocols will be in place for some time. Conversations around challenges should therefore encompass the long term implications of these changes.
Although fortunately remaining relatively unscathed, the pandemic has had some negative impacts on the METS sector. COVID related challenges identified by the experts include:
- FIFO/DIDO restrictions across state borders, and the discontinuation of overseas travel.
- General restrictions to site access.
- Staggered shift starts, smaller crews, working eating and travelling together.
- Initial panic buying impacted supplies. (Including explosives, mine site supplies)
- The need to manage COVID safe plans.
- Self-isolation requirements.
- Working and schooling children
- Awkward greetings
- International downturn in demand for metal products reflected in lowered commodity values
There is no doubt COVID has been the catalyst for several positives as well. These include:
- Emphasis on the importance on mining to the national economy
- Increase in local opportunities for local service providers where previous supply chain links have been cut off due to travel restrictions.
- We have learned to connect in different ways, and realise travel and face to face meetings are not required for everything.
- Changes to workflow allow a window to accelerate the adoption of automation and technology.
OVERALL, THE OUTLOOK IS POSITIVE
New projects, greenfield and brownfield sites present opportunities. New mines are starting up or under expansion in hard rock. There are strong indications that metals and mining projects approvals are on the increase in NSW.
The labour market is still tight, with expertise very much in demand. Opportunities for trained people with mature products and services are opening up.
Miners and larger METS are looking at different ways of doing business.
For a number of mining companies, things have changed. What wasn’t important before is now, and what was important before may not be right now.
So how do METS businesses best turn challenge to opportunity?
Collaborate across the sector in new ways.
Get involved early in a project.
Use engineering to unlock efficiencies.
Adapt emerging technologies.
Work with local providers who bring local knowledge.
Go back and knock on doors that were closed because they may now be open.
Go to the Austmine site here to request the password to access the recording of this webinar.