Has Minerals Industrial Technology Peaked?

Batterham, Robin J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2004
We still need to innovate, but it is getting harder. The real price of metals is declining, return on shareholder value is lower than other industries, and there is a shorter-term focus on staying viable in a capital-intensive industry where timeframes for implementation of new technologies can be long (+I5 years). In this environment, the levels of R&D spent by major minerals companies are remaining steady at around 0.2%-0.5% of revenue. This is not large and to remain viable in the future, we need to be smarter about the way in which we do R&D. The mining industry is a knowledge-based industry. Driving down the cost curve demands innovation, which demands knowledge. To be smarter and more effective in our approach to innovation, a new paradigm is required Generating, capturing and using knowledge has evolved from Mode 1 (discipline based and clear distinction between basic and applied research) to Mode 2 (multidisciplinary, team-based approached with flow between basic and applied activities). Mode 2 is now seen to be much more efficient and to deliver better appropriability (Tegart 2003). To survive, we need to innovate, and the best way to do this is collaboratively. Some examples and pointers for the future will be given in this paper. THE CURRENT SITUATION The Rand report and other recent studies have painted a grim outlook for the mining industry. The real price of metals continues to decline (Figure 1) and profit margins remain thin. This is reflected in shareholder returnwhich are well below other industries (Figure 2)-and current management strategies-which reflect something of a "survival mode." The current focus for most mining companies is on short-term, incremental gains
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