3 big opportunities in technology

Oleg Maksimov believes that automation, data, and advancements in drilling technology are key to innovating the mining industry.

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Oct 16, 2019
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Oleg Maksimov joined Nordgold in the beginning of 2012. At Nordgold Oleg is responsible for implementation of Business System Program, efficiency improvement and cost reduction initiatives. Previously, he worked as a consultant and project manager at international strategy consulting companies – Booz Allen Hamilton and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants with focus on operational topics in steel and mining industries.

What is your outlook for the mining sector in the next 12 months?

The price of gold has gone up and I don’t see it going down over the next year. This will hopefully drive additional investment into geological exploration. As a consequence, there will be pressure on productivity, equipment efficiency and optimising current reserves.

I’d therefore expect to see more investment into equipment, R&D and technology, taking advantage of the extra profit margin in the gold price.

Secondly, I expect to see M&A activity continue. The gold market remains attractive.

In terms of innovation in mining technology where does the biggest opportunity lie and why?

There are three big opportunities.

The first opportunity is in equipment automation which is becoming a key driver. Automation plays a critical role in underground mining, as well as helping in the drive towards zero emissions and better safety.

The second opportunity is in the use of technology in drilling and the use of the geological data. There have been huge changes in the data interpretation of geology with technological innovations having transformed this space.

Thirdly there is an opportunity in the data itself. Mining companies are increasingly realising the importance of data collection and storage. Technology innovation “brings data to life”. In addition, I increasingly see mining companies understand that the data needs to be kept near the mine site for better decision making.

What are the cultural challenges of introducing technological change in a mining company? How do you win ‘hearts and minds?’

There are there key cultural challenges.

Firstly,  the existing employees must acquire new skills and more multi-functional skills. Some employees who were in equipment-based jobs will need to retrain for new professions.

Secondly, we will need new professions in mining. This could be more roles for electricians, more roles in automation operation, or more roles in instrumentation monitoring.  One current problem is that there is shortage of people with these skills.  This is key reason why the pace of innovation isn’t as fast as it could be.

The third challenge lies within management. Management needs to embrace new skills in this new technologically driven world. We need to get used to making more data driven decisions rather than decisions based on experience and gut-feel. Technological change can only develop so far if leadership is not keeping pace.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you will be speaking at Mines and Technology?

I’ll be talking about technology that has delivered results at Nordgold. On aspect I’ll be focusing on is fail fast examples. We have been particularly successful in our data projects. If we haven’t found a solution quickly we have changed approach. This might be looking at the quality of the data, or approaching the problem differently, such as putting engineers and statisticians together to work on a solution. If something isn’t working don’t give up – we look for a different perspective.

I’ll also be touching upon some of those cultural change and leadership issues I mentioned.

What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

"Exponential Organisations” by Salim Ismail. He tackles the challenges of how to grow your company fast, doubling in size in a year.  Salim explains how these new organization structures are leveraging a newly available set of externalities like big data, community, the crowd or accelerating technologies and by doing so, are performing 10x better than their peers in the same space.

I am also a fan of the work of Jeff Sutherland, who has written numerous books on building frameworks  for enabling business agility at scale across an entire organization.

Oleg Maksimov will be speaking at Mines and Technology London, taking place at the Business Design Centre, 25-27 November where he will be presenting a case study Digital transformation done well: how collaboration optimized Nordgold's business.

Go to the profile of Andrew Thake

Andrew Thake

Head of Content, Mines and Money

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