Mining will see major benefits from the ICT revolution.
Australia is going digital and mining is set to be the big winner as it integrates this new technology.
At IBM and IBISWorld's recent launch of the "Snapshot of Australia's Digital Future to 2050" report, it outlined the country's increased use of broadband, how this will affect Australian industries, and the dawning of what it dubbed the 'Infotronics Age'.
The report had some major predictions for the country's future up to 2050, and described just how information and communications technology (ICT) is going to change the country.
To date "the investment in broadband has been frustrated by a lack of vision in its future use," Andrew Stevens, managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, explained at the report's launch.
He explained that "the unprecedented natural resources boom, together with a low public debt level and prudent banking sector, has buffered Australia's economy from challenging global marco-economics conditions.
"Consequently, it is easy to overlook the need to address the nation's sustained productivity decline and the importance of securing longer-term prosperity."
Stevens went on to add that it will be "astonishing the impact that broadband will have on the development of Australia".
By 2050 the report stated that ICT will generate around $1 trillion in revenues for the country, and importantly mining will be amongst the five industries to benefit from this development.
We have already seen broadband and ICT making inroads into mining, particularly with developments such as Rio Tinto's Mine of the Future and its Remote Operations Centre, a feat that Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill iron ore is hoping to emulate.
The technology is also being seen through the greater automation of every day processes as well as the more visible massive trucks and machinery.
According to the report "by 2020 Australia will return to a productivity growth of 1.7 per cent due in part to ICT some of the biggest industry beneficiaries [will be] our lowest productivity growth industries today, including mining.
"High speed broadband is essential for Australia's economic growth."
Mining's place and future
At the event, IBISWorld's chairman Phil Ruthven singled out mining as one of the industries that has protected Australia thus far from the downturn, but added that this was a unique occurrence as "it was more a pricing boom than a product boom" and went on to highlight the inefficiencies currently plaguing the industry.
Mining "desperately needs transformation as it is one of the most inefficient industries right now".
Ruthven explained that mining's productivity has dropped over the last ten years, and seen "a 9.8 per cent dip in productivity from 2001 through to 2011".
However, he went on to say that in the report, it outlines that after retail trade and the public administration and safety industries, mining is set to be the bigger winner from ICT, as it expected to gain 12.1 per cent in revenues from increased broadband availability and use.
The snapshot report states that "smart sensors and machine to machine communications will reap productivity benefits for mining by taking out labour costs and increasing efficiency.
"Superfast broadband will play a very important function in logistics, virtual operations (including robotics), ore grade use optimisation, and exploration analyses.
"This will become much more important as mineral prices pause and fall after the current cycle peaks in the 2020s, if not earlier."
It also pointed to the proliferation of remote control centres and tele-operations.
"Teleworking will continue as a key trend, with possibly one in four people in the workforce working at least partially from home if not full time by the middle of the century."
This also address some of the major fly in fly out issues currently plaguing the industry, as "skilled workers will be able to live anywhere if they so choose".
Not all bright
However, one downside for the mining industry is the predicted shift "from a natural resources to a developed resources economy" by around 2030.
"The export of tourism alone could match the 2012 mineral exports, totalling around $175 billion by 2030."
Stevens stated that "businesses and government must decide how best to leverage our increasingly ubiquitous digital infrastructure; and how to help Australia shift from a natural resources dependent economy to a more diverse 'developed resources oriented economy'.
He went on to say that Australia currently sits well behind the rest of Asia for high speed broadband, and our standard of living is at risk if we do not take advantage of this technology.
"Now is the time for Australian industries to start adapting their businesses to leverage the digital future this report envisages; industries that do not embrace this new utility are likely to see the demise of their business," Stevens said.
"Don't fear the future."