Australian Mining Industry: more than just shovels and being the lucky country

Published: 
2 June 2015

This week, 31 May to 7 June is Minerals Week 2015, which is an opportunity for the Minerals' Council of Australia and its partners, including Rio Tinto, Peabody Energy, Maptek and ANZ, to discuss issues relevant to the industry and in particular priority areas of economic reform.

To commemorate the occasion, IP Australia has to publish the Patent Analytics Hub's investigation into the innovation trends of the Australian Mining Industry - 'The Australian Mining Industry: More than Just Shovels and Being the Lucky Country'.

Our Chief Economist commissioned the report to analyse which technologies were being patented in the mining sector, and by whom. The analysis exploits our open source database, IP Government Open Data (IPGOD), to investigate three applicant types from 1994-2011. These include companies operating mines in Australia; mining equipment technology services (METS), who supply equipment or services to the miners; and publicly funded entities working in the field.

During 1994-2011, 6 539 Australian inventions were identified in the period by both Australian and International applicants. The METS sector was the most active filer, filing 76 per cent of the publications, primarily protecting dredging and soil shifting equipment. Most of these new 'shovels' are being produced off-shore though, typically originating from either Japan or Germany.

Australians are also innovating in the area, with the top Australian applicants being CSIRO, Rio Tinto, CRCMining and the University of Queensland. Locally we are interested in analysing extracted ore for possible new properties, the manufacture of iron or steel and electromagnetic prospecting.

One innovation highlighted in the report is the SmartCap. The SmartCap is an ingenious piece of Australian technology developed by CRCMining. The typical 'trucker-style' cap is worn by drivers of heavy vehicles during their shift and includes sensors which determine whether a driver remains alert and transmits this information back to a remote base station which in turn provides an alarm to revive the driver.

The report concludes with a case study looking into the emergence of automated vehicles in the mining sector. Driverless vehicles are already operating at Rio Tinto's mine in the Pilbara using technology developed by Komatsu.

This report, and other patent analytics reports, can be found on the Patent Analytics Hub page.

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