Old tech v New tech

Yesterday the Qld Resources Council asked for financial help from the State government to keep struggling mines open and avoid the loss of thousands of jobs.

The Council’s CEO Michael Roche, speaking on 612 ABC Brisbane said these are “grim times” with 1 in every 3 Queensland coal mines running at a loss and LNG and Base Metal mines also in trouble.

The Council will soon meet with a QLD government jobs committee to “have a conversation” about providing “some relief” for mines. He emphasised the cyclical nature of demand for resources. We know the coal industry, in particular, is experiencing a major downturn. It continues to feel the effects of China’s economic slowdown, reduction in coal consumption and diversification into nuclear, wind, hydro and solar power.

Mr Roche believes our focus should be on keeping mines open and ensuring royalties continue to flow into the State budget until it recovers. Which, he says, it will – via demand from India and the rest of Asia.

Traditionally, mining is an industry weighed down by all-or-nothing gambles, with high cost assets that generally only have a single purpose and a finite lifespan (10 - 20 years, the life of the mine). There aren't too many other businesses that are reliant on market volatility and a 'quick hit' cash grab.

Let’s compare this to ‘new tech’ start-ups which are able to tinker, adjust or completely reinvent their business model and product/service to suit demand. There's a benefit to being able to keep a business lean and able to change tack to suit market conditions or the needs of the consumer base.

Given what appears to be an inevitable shift to clean, sustainable (and over the life of the asset), cheaper infrastructure and renewables, doesn’t it make sense for our archaic mining industry to invest in innovation? To consider developing infrastructure and technology that can be adapted, scaled up or down to suit market conditions? And what can we do with what’s left over when the miners move on? Is there opportunity to ‘re-purpose' our redundant mining infrastructure (think the world’s largest underground trampoline set up in a disused Welsh mine!)?

image via Daily Mail Australia

Perhaps, instead of asking Government for the answers, it should be incumbent on the mining industry (which, let’s be fair, are the primary beneficiary of profit, despite Michael Roche’s assertions that the industry is doing Queensland a favour), to provide some forward-thinking solutions that benefit the people of Queensland in the long term, not just the CEOs and shareholders in the short.