Speaker Spotlight: Joe Pease

2 July 2019

As we approach MetPlant 2019, we will be interviewing our keynote speakers about their upcoming presentations and some key issues in the minerals processing sector.

We recently interviewed Joe Pease FAusIMM, Director at CRC Ore and AMIRA on his upcoming presentation at MetPlant 2019 and his views on the industry.  Joe is a Minerals Industry consultant with over 35 years’ experience in the industry; 21 years in site research and operations management (Australia, Canada and USA) and 12 years as CEO of a successful technology developer and provider.
Read more on Joe Pease.

The title of your keynote “Mining Silicon Valley” is quite intriguing.  Please tell us more about the premise.

We hear so much about innovation, disruption and entrepreneurial business models, typified by “Silicon Valley” and common in software, personal electronics and innovative services.  The business models are ruthless and brilliant, the success is breathtaking.

A significant advice business has grown on the premise that minerals companies must adopt these business models; they must innovate quickly or die. Advisors and consultants have successfully “mined” the Silicon Valley business model.

But does success in one industry guarantee success in another industry with fundamentally different structure and dynamics?

What are your views on big data?  Is it a help or a hindrance?

Of course, good decisions are made from good data. Unfortunately we can’t measure the most important things in our plants – e.g.  instantaneous mineral liberation and surface chemistry. We don’t even reliably measure simple things – solids flowrates, slurry density and pulp chemistry in aerated slurries.  So “big data” is fine so long as the user understands it’s limits. Certainly, use big data (with care), but never stop trying to trying to improve plant instrumentation and develop new measures. The aim is to distil to a small amount of right data.

Data is like sub-prime loans – assembling lots of bad stuff does not make it good.

“Agility” and “Fail Fast & Pivot”?  Good for the processing world?

Agility is always good.  It evokes efficiently making the right moves. The skill is to know what the right moves are in your situation. For example, “fail fast & pivot” suits a product with a low cost of failure, when it is easy to tweak imperfections, and it is crucial to get early market share. That makes it brilliant for software and short-life consumer electronics.

Failing fast is never a good idea for a SAG mill, a pit wall or a tailings dam!

What is the biggest impediment to innovation in the minerals sector in your view?

The very nature of the business. So many things are interconnected, often in a single line with complex feed-forward and feed-back loops. A change in the mine can affect mill feed in 5 years’ time; a change in the plant can affect tailings and water quality decades later. Every site is different, we can’t control (or even measure) the feed. Getting the science right is challenging enough; but is still worthless unless you also get the engineering and materials handling right and balance all the interactions. Your innovative equipment has to work in that environment for over 20 years with high availability and be backwards-compatible with existing equipment and forwards-compatible with future equipment for decades.  You can’t simply upgrade to a newer model every few years.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s MetPlant conference?

To me, MetPlant is in the rare group of “must attend” conferences.  It unapologetically demands high standards for papers. This attracts the best papers, which attracts the best professionals and practitioners.  It rations papers to have a single stream, so the same quality cohort spends two days networking and considering the most important new thinking in processing.

What message would you like to provide to the delegates – what do you hope will be the main message they will take away from your keynote presentation?

Most of all, my presentation is for young professionals who must get demotivated by negative opinions of minerals. Constantly hearing that their industry is old-world, conservative and takes too long to innovate. Worst of all, they even hear this from within the mining industry itself.

What nonsense! Innovation in minerals is probably the toughest business challenge there is. There are no short cuts; just decades of perseverance and demanding rigorous work. Maybe “society” doesn’t appreciate it, maybe parts of their own company don’t understand it. But industry practitioners do. If the young professionals are up for the challenge, then we will support them, we will be proud of them. And they should be mighty proud of themselves.

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