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Junior mining needs innovation

Innovation in the junior mining space has become dependent on how quickly the sector can implement innovative technologies, develop new investment strategies, adapt in virgin territories and communicate clearly with community stakeholders.

These themes stemmed from last year’s Junior Indaba.

Technological innovation in mining will automatically peak an engineer’s interest, but for the junior mining sector there is a much broader spectrum of innovative opportunities.

[quote]Particularly pertinent to the junior mining space is financial innovation.  Capital has dried up, not completely but it has become very difficult to secure, and the one thing juniors need is capital.

The need to become more creative in raising capital is very real, and this has brought about opportunities like crowd funding.  Recently a Quebec-based mineral exploration company closed its first tranche of crowd funding and raised $400 000.

“Crowd funding in Africa is an opportunity that junior miners, together with local investment houses and bankers, could explore,” states Andrew Lane, industry leader for energy and resources at advisory firm Deloitte Africa.

When juniors explore virgin territory they tend to find a lack of formal infrastructure.  No power, no water and sometimes virtually uninhabited.   Whilst this is nothing new to the industry, junior mining companies can start small and scale up by using innovative modular solutions.  These include modular water treatment plants, modular metallurgical plants, and alternative options in modular accommodation.

The convergence of technologies and mobility are already making an impact in mining through targeting efficiencies in operations and improvements in safety.  The consumer facing industry led the charge into the digital world, now is the time for heavy and extractive industries.

“The digital transformation is here and is the next wave that the mining sector is going to have to ride,” mentions Lane, a speaker at this week’s Junior Indaba.

Wherever the industry treads there will be expectations and different agendas coming from an array of stakeholders including governments, traditional authorities, elected officials, local businesses and communities down to the rights of the sole miner.

The stakeholder environment is complex, and a view is that more listening than talking is required.

“We need to think about what we do as in investment in our collective future, out of which we are also a beneficiary.  Huge innovative opportunities exist for junior mining companies to start thinking differently in their approach to social and community stakeholder relations”.

Finally it comes down to the scarcity of capital.  The larger mining houses tend to have larger resources, the capital and R&D infrastructure, to develop new kit, but there have been successful innovations commercialised by someone other than the original inventor.

“The trick with innovation is that you don’t have to be the inventor, and you don’t necessarily have to own it, and juniors need to investigate the option of buying the specialised service or asset from someone else,” concludes Lane.