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AusImm UGOPS Conference 2021 – a delegates view

3 Mins read

In Western Australia we are extremely fortunate that we have been able to keep CV19 out of our isolated state for the majority of the year. With this has come freedom of movement and a return to a more “normal life” for the majority of our population. A huge positive to this is the ability for the state’s occupants to congregate in public places, whilst of course, being aware of social distancing and hygiene standards.

With that said, AusIMM’s Underground Operators Conference 2021 is under way in Perth, Western Australia. The three day event allows keynote speakers to discuss topics that are relevant with the industry and for suppliers to showcase their latest wears. Day one was a reasonably busy day with the auditorium and vendor showcase both equally engaged with underground operators!

Epiroc Boomer M20 display and marketing literature

One of the largest announcements ahead of the conference was the release of the new Epiroc M20 Boomer Jumbo on Sunday 14th March. The main point of difference being the significantly reduced hydraulic infrastructure powering the masts and drills. The marketing video and literature caught the eye with the jumbo “drilled” into the ground at a near 90 degree angle! The rig was on display wrapped around the edge of the Epiroc stand for all to inspect. It is always novel viewing a jumbo with no damage, grease or marks as it leaves the factory… a different life awaits in the deep!

Following on from recent posts highlighting some of the technical advances in Canada, it was impressive to see Maclean Engineering positioning themselves for auxiliary machine sales into the Australian market. Their growing range of EV powered auxiliary vehicles, though not on display, looked fit for purpose! By all accounts they have a large market share in the Americas with over 30 BEV units now being used across multiple operations. It will be interesting to follow their progress here in Australia over the next year or so.

David Kilkenny discussing collaboration & implementation challenges and a pathway for success

The auditorium had two talks that were of particular interest to me on day one – the first being a short presentation about Collaboration and Change Management by David Kilkenny from Byrnecut. He highlighted an old project implementation story from 5 years ago at Newcrest’s Telfer mine site. It was interesting to hear him talk about how the methodology for delivering, long lasting and effective change hadn’t altered, although the technologies possibly had in recent years. As this is an area I would like to explore in my professional career into the future I found this talk very fit for purpose and engaging.

Furthermore, Steve Durkin’s talk about the trials of the Safescape Bortana at the Fosterville project was very on point. He delivered an engaging presentation which covered the usual BEV questions around charging and use in the underground environment. Safescape’s work allowing the system to be charged by conventional 1000v underground jumbo boxes was very well explained and delivers a great alternative to designated charging stations in the underground environment. He highlighted the requirement for the heavier use vehicles (think charge up and nipper utes) to recharge during the shift, and although the jumbo box charging system allows this, I do struggle to envisage a busy service crew wagon being plugged in at regular, opportune moments during a shift.

This was my first experience of a mining conference of this size and scale and it was great to see a strong turn out from across the industry. I definitely learnt a lot about new vendors coming to market, and furthermore met many people I have only ever conversed with online or via phone. I don’t overly enjoy starting conversations with those I don’t know but I faced my fear and started a few small chats, which I will look to build upon on day 2!

If you are attending (or have attended for those reading later in the year) what has your main take away been from this conference?

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