Developing the Water innovation Roadmap

Developing the Water innovation Roadmap

The Roadmap guiding principles

A series of pathways are identified to address decarbonisation objectives in the copper industry, focusing on the copper–water–energy nexus. This is primarily related to embracing innovations related to water source, water use in operations, alternate engineering solutions, and applications related to water end use, reuse and repurpose.

The Roadmap recognises that a portfolio of measures, strategies and technologies could be utilised considering the variety of project types, operational requirements and limiting conditions for the copper industry, including external environment and parties.

The Roadmap also builds on the Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future Report (July 2020)1 that presented five enabling levers to optimise the opportunity for innovation success and mitigate risk in a complex and variable global operating environment.

Figure 44 - A summary of Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future (Phase 1) enabling levers

The guiding principles that underpin the water innovation Roadmap centre on recognising the integrated nature of the water cycle in copper mining. Solutions are aimed at:

• reducing the broader impacts beyond the mine operation to meet water stewardship and accounting objectives with optimised planning efforts;

• reducing water and energy demands (for example, through water efficiency measures that optimise sources of water based on matching water quality to use on a “fit-for-purpose” basis);

• maximising reuse and recycle efforts;

• minimising wastewater disposal through a combination of water efficiency applications and reuse; and

• exposing advances in treatment solutions to meet water quality objectives in processing, reuse and/or discharge to surface waters.

The purpose of the Roadmap is to bring to the copper industry a suite of technologies that can be considered for the future. The Roadmap is intended as a toolkit to advance the understanding of best practice technologies, suggest pathways for adoption and present examples linked to water innovation and emission impact.

The Roadmap highlights the latest in fresh thinking and insights with an ultimate objective to spawn additional new initiatives that address water use and efficiency to complement existing copper industry decarbonisation scenarios and programs. The development of the Roadmap considers a number of factors to ensure a practical, pragmatic and realistic application into the copper industry including:

  • acknowledgement of the risks and barriers for uptake in a practical context;

  • pathways to advance solutions in consideration of operating and capital cycles;

  • future skills requirements;

  • the impact of the proposed technology adoption across the mine site;

  • commercial application and readiness;

  • a support to industry to navigate technology pathways and choice, barriers for adoption, SME participation, research requirements, training and skills development;

  • alignment to industry decarbonisation objectives and assurance such as Copper Mark; and

  • technology trends beyond mining that connect to broader industry initiatives and projects that could advance emission reduction and SDG goals.

Multi helix frameworks and innovation

To achieve the ambitious objective of a Zero-Emission Copper Mine of the Future requires a coordinated inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary theatre of stakeholders to enhance, producer-supplier collaboration, capital markets, policy settings, skills development, and the drive to an open innovation mindset.

As noted in the 2020 Zero-Emission Copper Mine of the Future Report2 (Phase 1), the magnitude of the challenge and the necessity to unite transformation across the industry are beyond the resources of a single producer, any one solution provider, any one government, or society. The challenge and need for cooperative action are especially apparent in the context of the relationship between the natural environments of mineral and water resource development and use.

As recognised by METS Ignited Australia (2015),3 triple helix collaboration among industry, research and government is required to advance a knowledge-based economy and drive resource sector innovation uptake. Carayannis et al. (2012) relate knowledge, innovation, society and the natural environment to each other, and expands the framework where knowledge and innovation on one hand is connected to the natural environment, on the other.4 The Phase 1 report introduced the Quintuple Helix model that can be interpreted as an approach in line with sustainable development and societal considerations.5

In the context of a Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future, such a multi-helix framework approach recognises additional collaborative relationships that are essential to success. Producer and supplier aggregation or collaboration can further raise awareness of resource and water sector environmental and societal inputs. This collaboration stimulates the decarbonisation imperative, advances interaction and knowledge exchange, increases innovation uptake, builds trust and can be an enabler to attract future skills.

Figure 45 - A multi-helix framework of innovation to unite transformation across industry

Driving a multi-helix framework enables a platform for industry to openly discuss, collaborate, share knowledge, and communicate about decarbonisation objectives in relation to water. A framework built on trust can enable the sharing of costs to support broader industry initiatives such as climate modelling, accounting and technical studies that are necessary to inform and guide industry especially when they are operating in similar regions.

Delivering pathways for innovation adoption

To drive water innovation in copper production requires a deep investigation into the drivers, barriers, available and emerging technologies, alongside the enablers that deploy innovation in a complex operating system.

In both the copper and water sectors, innovation adoption can be multi-faceted with a number of operational interdependencies. The time horizons for adoption can also be significant. A ‘collaborate to innovate’ mindset is essential to overcome barriers to adopting new ideas and to create an environment of effective and optimal knowledge transfer to implement novel solutions.

In a global industry such as copper, an effective model must be deployed to accelerate engagement with stakeholders that are often geographically dispersed or from alternate industries and to drive initiatives that are beyond the reach or resource capacity of a single entity.

This Roadmap aims to present a suite of technologies to assist industry navigate what could be appropriate according to their own operational needs and objectives. The Roadmap brings further insights for industry to determine what could be an effective approach to catalyse an innovation outcome, recognising that the practical development and deployment of innovation whether simple or complex is mostly linear from the perspective of project deployment and that there are similarities that can be drawn on approach and delivery.

Figure 46 - Project development and delivery for simple and complex innovation adoption projects

Success of the Roadmap will be determined through the adoption of solutions including:

  • Increasing the effectiveness of innovators and producers to prototype and test new technologies at an industrial level

  • Advancing knowledge for copper producers on leading technologies and guiding how these could be applied practically to de-risk the adoption of novel solutions

  • Supporting the commercial growth of water related solutions that could deliver a lower emission future

  • Better aligning research to suit industry demands and applications.

Innovation Roadmap methodology

The horizon of opportunity

The Roadmap was developed though a structured and collaborative process with industry experts to define the horizon of opportunity for water innovation across the upstream copper process chain. To determine the horizon of opportunity, a number of underlying assumptions were agreed and included:

  • Water use in a copper operation is essential across the entire process chain.

  • Water use in upstream copper production is significant by volume and energy. Use and consumption are comparable to other industrial processes.

  • Water intensity can be expected to increase and holds a relationship to energy intensity per tonne of copper produced, in consideration of industry mega trends.

  • Water holds value as both a commodity and a resource in its own right that needs to be carefully managed.

Determine the water innovation sub themes

The Roadmap definition process further recognised the independence of copper and water process chains and defined water innovation priority sub-themes of Water Source, Water Use and Water End Use.

From this point, the Roadmap approach determined a series of sub-themes with demonstrated linkages to the water process chain. Categories were identified, tested and prioritised, then further refined to determine the following water innovation Roadmap focus areas:

Identify drivers and barriers for adoption

Over a series of facilitated working group sessions and expert interviews, exploration was carried out for the identified water innovation Roadmap focu areas. The objective of this deeper investigation was to uncover the primary technical considerations related to the priority area including the current practice, innovation trends, barriers to innovation uptake and operational interdependencies. Further analysis was undertaken to better understand the drivers for innovation. For example, this could be a need related to operational efficiency, value creation, safety, regulatory or environmental considerations.

Capture the innovation opportunity

Further synthesis uncovered a series of common themes and a suite of innovation opportunities within each priority area. These opportunities were further narrowed in consideration of the previously identified barriers, evaluating practical application for implementation, business and operating risks, skills and operating interdependencies.

The Roadmap for each priority area recognised the practical challenges related to test innovation and the complexities related to the aggregation of demand across a wide range of solution providers noting that there are many actors in the mining and water innovation ecosystem with limited centralised information repositories.

There are also optimum points of innovation uptake in a copper project life-cycle. Operating and capital cycle times were also considered.

The Roadmap endeavours to recognise the various challenges related to innovation adoption and aims to demonstrate benefit to the operation and to guide investment toward the right technologies, capabilities, and organisational structures at the right time.

Validate the innovation opportunity

The final stage of the Roadmap process was a point of reflection to validate the innovation opportunities identified. This analysis challenged whether the identified innovations adequately considered the drivers and barriers to meet the needs of copper producers and solution providers. Moreover, consideration was made about additional research and the practical demonstration needed to achieve technology readiness and whether stakeholders are appropriately aligned toward a common goal. This process focused on the following questions:

  • Are there innovations currently available that have been optimised?

  • Are there significant initiatives already underway that are aligned to the priority theme?

  • Are there further opportunities for a consolidation of efforts?

  • Are there existing industry efforts (both now and identified for the future) to enable the water theme priority area to be realised?

  • Will industry efforts for this theme drive a lower emission outcome?

  • Are the identified innovations aligned to operating and capital cycles?

  • Are strategies robust and flexible to incorporate a future generation of new innovations.

  • Are there any case studies for demonstration?

A summary of the innovation Roadmap methodology is shown in Figure 48 below.

Catalyst pathways for Innovation Adoption

While the innovation Roadmap identifies and validates the individual points of innovation opportunities, a range of possible connecting ‘catalyst’ pathway structures and scenarios emerge to deploy and adopt innovation.

The process of innovation management and adoption necessitates consideration to identify the multiple stakeholders at play in the ecosystem, classify the role that they could play, and ascertain the different mechanisms required to deliver impact. Catalyst pathway models must also consider the context of the broader drivers and structural matters that are creating the industry “pull" and the most appropriate model to bring about a successful delivery without losing sight of the big picture.

For the copper industry in general, the more complex the challenge, the greater the breadth of external inputs (and therefore participants) are needed to engage to achieve a positive innovative outcome. For all catalyst pathway structures identified, common drivers among the participants can be defined to establish a management process to administer a project and drive it through to a successful result.

The outline of catalyst pathways below aims to guide copper producers toward the most appropriate model, or combination of models, to accelerate innovation adoption. This could include a consideration of operational and financial barriers, capital asset and operating schedules alongside pilot and testing requirements.

As presented in Figure 50 there are a number of considerations including commodity price trends, supply and demand drivers, project maturity and asset lifecycle that drives the lumpy nature of innovation uptake in the resource sector. From a producer perspective the consideration of innovation may only occur at certain intersections in an asset or project lifecycle such as capital development, replacement upgrades, continuous improvements and project expansion.

Stanway (2015) through an extensive industry wide survey and analysis recognised the nuanced structure and delivery of innovation in the resources sector and noted the application method can vary depending on the specific challenge that it is aiming to address.

A summary of catalyst pathway model applied to the water innovation Roadmaps are presented in Table 4 below.

In light of practical and complex project lifecycle considerations and technology readiness assessment this Roadmap presents a series of catalyst pathway models to assist producers and innovators alike to determine “which pathway structure could be best suited to a particular innovation objective?” and guide the timing of demonstration and execution in consideration of operational and financial barriers.

Table 4: A summary of select catalyst pathway models for resource sector innovation adoption

Catalyst PathwayPATHWAY DescriptionExample model includes
1InternalAn internal or in-house initiative that may result in transactional adoption or targeted research.Incremental operating improvement or site based internal working group or innovation initiative to develop specific operational solutions.
2Transactional PartnershipA small group structure typically between a producer and industry supplier, SME or research partner. Output could include research, pilot testing and trials.A dedicated project between mining house and industry supplier and/or SME. Could include pilot testing or trials. Note: a pipeline of pre-transaction innovation opportunities could be created through a structured innovation partnership program (for example BHP – Expande Supply Innovation).
3Innovation PartnershipThis describes an engagement between a producer and facilitation partner or a cluster driven model to accelerate the scoping of opportunity and enable testing and trialing of solutionsExpande Chile works with producers including BHP, Antofagasta Minerals and Codelco to scope, identify and accelerate the testing of innovative solutions. Austmine and the BHP Supply Innovation to uncover and pilot solutions into operating sites.
4Thematic CollaborationTypically a multi-party structure comprised of organisations that share a common transformative vision and often over a multi-year time frame. Thematic collaborations work to scope and drive targeted projects and initiatives.Canadian Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) industry collaboration and projects to drive a Zero Waste Mining objective. METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre to drive the competitive positioning of the Australian METS sector. Note there are a variety of membership and governance structures that apply for thematic collaboration models.
5Collaborative Research and Industry ProgramsTargeted programs and organisations that address medium to long term innovation priorities and are often comprised of industry and research participants.Amira Global drives a collaborative member model to address industry mega trends and advance knowledge. Coorperative Research Centres (CRC) targets multi-year industry led research to tackle problems for industry and drive commercial outcomes. Mining3 is directed by global mining industry members to develop and deliver transformational technology to improve the productivity, sustainability, and safety of the mining industry. CSIRO Mineral Resources drives research, innovation and solutions across the mineral resources value chain.
6Industry ConsortiaDescribes collaborative industry initiatives that draw from a range of industry participants to address common problems, regulations or standards that face the industryGlobal Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) to advance themes.
7CapitalA catalyst pathway model based on capital support to a solution provider or producer to drive the demonstration, application or commercial growth of an innovation.Specialised technology development funding support that could be private such as the Aurus III Copper Venture Fund that provides funding to start-ups and new tech companies to develop technologies that will benefit the copper industry. Public models include the Australian Entrepreneurs Program (EP) or the Accelerating Commercialisation program.
8Business ModelAlternate business models to recognise specific industry targets and drivers of demand. This model recognises that accelerated innovation outcomes could be achieved in some cases through incentive-outcome and performance based schemes with suppliers and alternate industries.Under an outcome-based approach, a producer contracts and pays for business results delivered by a service provider, OEM or utility rather than for defined activities, tasks or assets. Models can also include cooperatives and shared infrastruture.
9Open InnovationOpen innovation models work to source external ideas to solve defined challenges or improve existing capabilities. This model is outward facing and requires the mutual sharing of problem and solution and possibly the sharing of innovation and intellectual property to accelerate a solution or outcome.There are various recent examples of open innovation including crowd source, structured programs such as the BHP Open Innovation Tailings Challenge, OZ Minerals Ingenious Extraction, and Unearthed challenge programs. Cash or other incentives to attract solutions from both within and outside the mining industry are often used.