Australia’s mining industry is built on competition.

The country is in a great position in regards to its reserves of minerals, oil and gases, but that doesn’t mean it holds the monopoly. For practically every mining company working in Australia today, there exists the challenge to keep up with both local and overseas competitors.

A new challenge

This can be seen from within the industry, but also observed from outside of it; profit has been hard to come by as global prices for metals drop. Many companies have offset this by increasing production as a means to keep afloat.

For example, earlier this year, the Queensland Resources Council announced that coal production in 2014 had reached a record level, despite its low market price, which has been steadily declining since early 2011.

Last year saw 216 million tonnes of coal mined over the 12-month period in the Sunshine State alone. This proved to be well above forecasts and a great improvement on 2013’s haul of 196 million tonnes as well as the 168 million tonnes excavated in 2012.

Queensland Resources Council’s Chief Executive, Michael Roche, said at the time: “Queensland producers are saying to overseas customers that they are here for the long haul with the reliable supply of a range of high-quality coals.”

And yet, it has not been enough to increase workload in order to operate at this level. With mining companies operating on tighter margins than ever before – and sometimes with fewer employees – productivity is the key to success.

Getting more for less

As Managing Director at SRO Technology​, Peter Seligman recently told Austmine, staying on top in an increasingly competitive industry relies on optimisation – from the board room to the belt scales.

“Increasing productivity is all about getting more output from less input. At the core of​ ​improving productivity is understanding those inputs and outputs.​” he explained.

“Firstly, measurement instruments must be properly applied on site to avoid errors inherent in application and deliver more accurate information to decision makers. These instruments are essentially the nerve endings of the mining information system. Regardless of the inherent accuracy in any instrument, if it is not properly applied it will never deliver an accurate result.”

Industrial measurement instruments will certainly continue to play a big part in finding new productivity and preventing wastage.

Looking ahead

Increased production may continue throughout 2015, as IBISWorld predicts the mining industry will contract by a further 1.1 per cent. Getting the most out of each ounce of material – which includes accurately identifying, measuring and separating the valuable products from the waste – will be an ongoing concern over the coming months.

The good news: As we head into the 2015/16 financial year, the same research predicts strong recovery for the sector, growing by 7.1 per cent in that period and 8.4 per cent the year after.

By focusing on improving productivity now, mining companies will be in an even greater position to maximise profit once the industry begins to find its feet once again.