Chinese mining industry is an early adopter of digital solutions that automate and optimize operations
Metso has opened a new Competence Center for mining in China (CCC). Located in Hunan province in central China, the center focuses on developing and manufacturing solutions for the fast-changing Chinese mining market.
We sat down with the head of the CCC, Yiqiang Zhang, and asked him to tell a bit more about the center and his views on the mining industry in China.
Why was the CCC established and what are its key responsibilities?
After several years of flat development, the Chinese mining market is coming back to a somewhat different reality than before. There are interesting projects emerging throughout the country, and we want to be close to our customers to make sure that we can translate their business needs into technical specifications and even further into new products. The CCC focuses on developing technologies and solutions that specifically serve Chinese customers. That said, we also cooperate with Metso's other Competence Centers in the US, South America and Europe to put our global expertise to use when developing new solutions.
Why was Changsha chosen as the location?
We benchmarked several locations, but Changsha stood out as the number one choice. Located in Hunan province in central China, Changsha is a well-known technology and education hub in China, especially in the field of minerals processing. We believe that true innovations never happen in isolation. Therefore, we are cooperating with local design institutes and universities. We see these types of networks as an excellent platform for building mutual understanding of where the industry is going. Since 2009 Metso has also been running a scholarship program that annually funds 20 students in the Central South China University School of Minerals Processing and Bioengineering.
What are the main market and technology trends that are influencing Chinese mining industry?
Naturally, global megatrends, such as depletion of natural resources, a circular economy or infrastructure development, caused by rapid urbanization accelerate changes in the mining industry in China and elsewhere. Digitalization plays a big role: the Chinese society is very keen to use digital solutions that reduce cost and boost efficiency. Same applies to the mining industry. Chinese mining companies can often be described as early adopters in implementing new solutions that automate and optimize their operations. To promote and address this readiness we are adding intelligence into our solutions, for example advanced control functionalities or online asset management tools such as Metso Metrics for Mining.
Another important aspect is sustainability. The Chinese government is implementing new environmental regulations in several industries, which means that OEMs like Metso need to provide solutions that comply with those regulations. One example is the Blue Sky action plan to reduce air pollution. This is something we look at holistically when building our supply network, and it is also an area where Metso has strong experience.
What are the key challenges that mining customers face in China today?
When talking to our customers, the key challenges in their day-to-day operations are related to productivity, energy consumption and sustainability issues. The market is picking up again and that means we need to be agile in catering to our customers' needs. It is important to remember that each customer operation is different and the same solution does not solve the same problem at every site. Therefore, we will focus on developing solutions that meet the specific demand of individual customers. This also means that we must work very closely with our customers every step of the way to be able to introduce new products and solutions faster. An example is our new New Generation Intelligent mill designed specifically for the Chinese market.