John Vagenas asks the big questions at the AusIMM New Leaders Conference

Banner from AusIMM New Leaders Conference featuring John Vagenas.
If the recent AusIMM New Leaders Conference ‘Champions of Change’ is anything to go by, the future of mining is bright. Here, we recap on Metallurgical Systems’ involvement at this fantastic event.

The virtual two-day conference – which attracted 461 delegates from 31 countries this year – gives university students, upcoming graduates and young mining professionals an exclusive opportunity to learn from and engage with renowned mining leaders. Naturally, we were delighted when our own leader, John Vagenas FAusIMM, was invited to present a session. 

Data is your friend? 

In line with this year’s theme, John delivered a fun, interactive presentation provocatively called “Data is your friend?” (That’s right, there’s a rogue question mark there. It was John’s nod to the industry’s reluctance to embrace data and make it transparent, for fear of negative repercussions.) 

John’s webinar kicked off with a quiz, which explored some of the biggest topics facing the mining industry today, including:

  • Compliance and why governance structures lead to higher standards and better financial outcomes for our industry 
  • A discussion on hydrogen as an alternative to traditional fuels  
  • The demand for critical minerals, that is needed to manufacture the green technologies required to generate the energy to fuel just one processing plant 
  • The digital maturity of the mining and minerals industry and the problems that arise when the industry does not view data as a corporate asset  

John then shared attendees’ answers along with his own insights into everything from the challenges of manufacturing electric vehicles to the staggering amount of solar power required to run a nickel laterite plant. And, yes, John drew extensively on data (it is certainly his friend) throughout the webinar to help reinforce his arguments.  

Thinking green in mining 

Green energy proved a hot topic in the webinar. Using plenty of data and statistics to support his arguments, John raised some interesting questions about the efficacy of electric vehicles and hydrogen as alternatives to traditional fuels. He explained how today’s ‘green’ energies come with their own challenges, and it’s up to engineers and new graduates to consider the full picture. For example, the manufacture of an electric vehicle generates 68% more emissions than the manufacture of a similarly-sized vehicle with a traditional combustion engine.  

John also did the maths on using clean energy to properly power just one nickel laterite plant. He used the example of a plant that’s planning to replace a 60MW gas turbine with solar power. On a cloudy day, the total area of solar panels required to power the plant would be over a staggering 1 million square metres. “Clearly, this is not feasible. We need to consider cheap and accessible power sources, which means we need to have a sensible conversation about nuclear energy,” John said. 

To solve problems like clean energy alternatives and the demand for critical mineral processing, John pointed out the pressing need for data and digitisation. “Digital transformation of the mining industry is an urgent imperative. Right now, the industry is not digitally mature – it is saddled with legacy systems that hinder innovation and prohibit us from finding answers to the big questions we’re asking today,” he said.  

View presentation: Data is your friend?

This conference was recorded by AusIMM. All AusIMM conference webinar recordings are available to AusIMM members and subscribers

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