Michelle Ash is a famed figure in the mining industry. Her expansive career has taken her from Australia to London, Tanzania, and Toronto, while working with every metal under the sun (as well as paper and PVC). Michelle has lent her expertise to the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, Acacia Mining, GMG, and most recently, to Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company, as their Chief Innovation Officer. She also was named one of the “100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining” by Women in Mining UK.
We are thrilled to announce Michelle’s decision to join the Minespider Advisory board, endowing us with both her support and vast knowledge and connections within the mining industry.
As you can imagine, she’s a busy lady, but we managed to sit down with her for a rapid round of five questions.
1. In your 20-odd years in the mining industry, what have been some of your proudest accomplishments?
Some of my proudest moments have been seeing people achieve what they thought they would never be able to achieve.
That includes seeing a young person complete high school because of the support that a company or individuals have given them. Or seeing teams drive the adoption of smart devices and short interval control underground, so they can now solve problems via Facetime and make their jobs both easier and more rewarding. Or working with a community to start small-scale mining that is safe, or merchanting that is profitable, and seeing the changes that it makes to the lives of so many families.
2. How open is the mining industry to innovation? What is still ripe for disruption?
The mining industry is becoming more open to innovation and there are some fantastic leaders driving this both within and external to the companies!
As an industry, we have to transform ourselves much faster. Both in terms of the technology we use and social innovations; the ways in which we engage and add value for our employees, communities, governments, shareholders, and suppliers.
If not, we will see investment become more difficult, investors will find other investments, talent will find other industries, and communities will vote not to have mining as part of their location. This will then drive others to mine differently.
3. What are some of the most exciting technological advances you’ve seen emerging in mining processes?
The intersection between automation/robotics/electrification, as well as AI and blockchain, will ultimately drive a very different mining industry in its look and feel.
4. More specifically, how do you see blockchain playing a role in this advancement?
I think that blockchain will transform and streamline the value chain. From the finding, permitting, and extracting, to the usage of the products, and including the various suppliers along the chain. This will drive costs down and simplify processes, as well as create significantly more transparency.
5. What would your ideal mine of the future look like?
There are two…for gold, it would be that it is left in the ground — except when required for the creation of physical gold products (non-financial).
The other would be an underground mine that has no people working underground, with small processing plants behind extraction equipment that pre-treated the material, so there would be no need for processing plants or tailings dams on the surface.