Creating successful opportunities to develop and support talent and skills creation by necessity is a critical step in solving our industry’s current and emerging great challenges. We share some thoughts on how we are using “Centers of Excellence” to build solutions for our industry.
Era of Innovation
Over the last decade the minerals industry has astutely moved into the innovation space, adopting and adapting technologies to support remote operations, automation, and robotics. Additional emerging applications sit on a bed of digital analytics, machine learning, and AI.
These technologies are available now because of investments in research and development over the last 30 to 40 years. Investments made by governments, computer sciences, medical, financial, and manufacturing sectors. Our industry is smart to leverage these investments and to borrow from these to develop minerals industry technologies. They bring us ideas, concepts, and processes that can help improve operational efficiency, effectiveness, and safety.
Minerals Industry Innovation
But these emerging technologies are not sufficient for the great wall of challenges we face in the next 3 to 5 years. We need to meet increasing decarbonisation targets – in operations whilst dramatically increasing the supply of raw materials to support the green revolution … We have to discover more, and move, process and extract minerals much, much more efficiently than ever contemplated before
… And we are living in a world where there is declining interest in joining our industry.
We are at risk of not having the talent and skills to help us find solutions to some of the most fundamental mining sciences and engineering challenges. So Amira Global is on a crusade to deliver sustainable global opportunities that will provide the talent and skills for near and future term. We invite you all to join our efforts.
Our Critical Questions
We have to ask ourselves a few critical questions:
- What does Talent and Skills development look like to us?
- How are we going to do create opportunities that deliver to industry technological knowledge, R&D output and transference to innovation (testing, scaling, piloting?) whilst simultaneously supporting the ecosystems to produce skills?
- What do we mean by a Center of Excellence?
- Where are the best places/locations/environments to make this all a reality?
- When? What sort of timelines do we envisage?
- How can we ensure these efforts are sustainable and produce into the future?
These are questions we are working with our ecosystem to address. Will be get all of them right first go – absolutely not, but we are good at learning and developing (and have been improving our processes of over 64 years!)
Centers of Excellence
To us Centers of Excellence have certain characteristics:
- A “Center” needs to be connected to a broader field – they cannot exist in isolation
- They can be physical or virtual, but always need a primary point of contact or position
- They exist to breed excellence – they may not be there yet, but the intent is always to systematically work towards introducing and developing excellence in a field that is connected to other centers and spaces through constructive and collaborative engagement
- Their structure is framed to ensure excellence in governance and financial stewardship
- The programs are designed to systematically develop and deploy knowledge and technologies that offer solutions to our industry’s challenges
- The Centers have cultures that are positive, constructive, collaborative, and connected – to each other, to industry, and to research communities
- There is a focus on developing leadership, operational and research capability to allow a diffusion of outcomes through into our communities
- Always, these centers must have a strong connection to the minerals industry
Examples of Amira Centers of Excellence
Amira has a long history of developing Centers of Excellence.
The Australian Mineral Science Research Institute (Amira P924 project (“AMSRI”)) was established through Amira in 2005 to 2010 as a virtual institute as a collaboration between University of South Australia, University of Newcastle, University of Melbourne, and University of Queensland. Along with industry sponsorship through Amira, AMSRI also received support through Australian Federal funding.
The AMSRI initiative was a bold one. It was very encouraging that a sub-set of minerals industry majors decided to support fundamental studies that could lead to industry-wide benefits; the minerals industry is more typically focused on short to medium term initiatives that have the potential to directly benefit only those companies that had funded the work. Such tactics lead to incremental improvements; whereas AMSRI sought to identify potentially step-change improvements.
Eight concepts for improved flowsheets or equipment for mineral processing emerged from AMSRI: Four of the Emerging Concepts related to new technologies for Coarse Particle Recovery, worth NPV benefits of several hundred million dollars in each case. These benefits arise from combinations of greatly improved energy efficiencies and lowered water demand in comminution.
A further four Emerging Concepts, arising from other parts of the AMSRI program, though less advanced also indicated high potential for significant benefits to the minerals industry.
In order to successfully commercialise the Emerging Concepts that were identified, it was recommended that companies experienced in commercialising technology become formally involved in future in their ongoing development, with the development of those eight Concepts be spun-out from AMSRI, into projects that are managed in a way that fast tracks the path towards commercialisation or towards identifying fatal flaws. The optimum path forward is likely to be different for each of the eight Emerging Concepts.
- design pathways and processes to commercialisation into the programs from the outset (management of IP and governance surrounding these are essential conversations in all projects)
- include supplier companies in the projects (Our Member based spans the minerals industry and we encourage Supplier Members to participate in our projects)
- align with innovation commercialisation support agencies early on that can rapidly support spin-offs (part of the Amira Global Alliances Program)
P934 WAXI & P1061 SAXI
The West African eXploration Initiative (WAXI) (Amira P934 project), lead by the University of Western Australia (in collaboration with nearly 20 other institutes), has been running for over 15 years. It has produced an incredible cohesive body of geological knowledge across West Africa, a database of nearly 100 theses, and over 90 PhD, Masters and Post Docs … 60% of whom are based in West Africa! This is an incredible legacy of knowledge and talent for the region that is now available to support industry exploration activities in the region.
An exciting development is the emerging leadership in the region with graduates who have trained through the program now leading modules from within the region.
This is producing a hub of knowledge and a West African Community of Practice in Exploration.
In parallel the South American eXploration Initiative (SAXI) (Amira P1061 project) is developing the equivalent talent and knowledge in the South American geological region connected through plat tectonics to West Africa! This enables the two regions to feed off each other’s knowledge, learnings, and regional Communities of Practice.
Additional “AXI” centers that are in development using the same model include:
- EAXI – an East African eXploration Initiative
- GAXI – the Geodynamic Andes eXploration Initiative
Each AXI produces a Center of Excellence to service the region, whist simultaneously connecting to each other to create a cohesive global body of knowledge and capability.
- Developing regionally relevant knowledge requires developing capability in the region.
- Connecting Centers of Excellence improves depth and breadth of knowledge and skills
- Virtual institutes can be strengthened by the provision of world-class equipped and well maintained laboratories in each region. This needs to be built into the creation of hubs in various regions.
Amira Full Mining Value Chain (ACoE)
Embracing the learnings from Amira’s various programs, Amira has initiated the development of a full mining value Center of Excellence (ACoE) in Ghana to service testing, scaling, piloting needs of R&D programs in the region.
We are in deliberations with the regional universities on how the ACoE can serve a cohesive, interconnected program of works that can support testing and deployment of research, development, and innovation outcomes and strengthening capability building for the region, the continent, and the globe.
Pan African Decarbonisation Institute (PADI)
Amira is on a mission to create a virtual Pan African institute of complementary and supplementary research, development and training that collaborates, connects, co-ordinates to co-create a pipeline of talented Africans that position Africa as a leading player in the decarbonisation value chain, and that transforms Africa's energy sector by leveraging Africa's new energy material resources and Africa's research, development and training capability.
Our vision is to build a self-sustaining pipeline of Pan African research, operational, and technical leadership, talent, and skills in minerals decarbonisation from resource management through to product development and delivery.
PADI’s current initial proponents include: University of Cape Town, Université de Lubumbashi, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Mines & Technology, Takwa (UMAT), and Reminex (ManageM Group).
Amira will launch a Prospectus at Indaba in February 2023 that invites further participation from industry, government agencies, and research organisations to progress and support PADI and the opportunities this creates for industry technologies and skills pipeline.
Future Minerals Forum – Saudi Arabia
Jacqui Coombes has been invited to contribute to the closed Ministerial Roundtable in Riyadh as part of the Future Minerals Forum in January 2023. We look forward to updating our community on the developments and learnings from this discussion.
Follow up on Linkedin to stay in the loop.
In the meanwhile, please reach out to Anthony Anyimadu, our VP Mineral Processing and GM Africa who has taken a lead on both PADI and ACoE (Anthony.Anyimadu@amira.global).