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Five surprising similarities between agriculture and mining

Australia's economic landscape has long been characterised by two formidable pillars: mining and agriculture. These industries, while distinct in operation and sometimes at odds politically, share a tapestry of challenges, knowledge, and opportunities. Could the surprising interconnectedness of mining and agriculture pave the way for collaborative solutions to shared challenges? As Australia embarks on a journey towards sustainable economic development, harnessing the collective wisdom of these industries will be instrumental in realising our shared bounty.
Rebecca Tomkinson, CEO, Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia explores five key factors of this symbiotic relationship.

1. Global and local challenges

Both industries grapple with export orientation, significant interfaces with land and water, and the imperative to reduce emissions. Initiatives such as decarbonisation and Scope 3 emissions targets – all indirect greenhouse gas emissions that occur in a company’s value chain and are not owned or controlled by the company – are crucial for fostering sustainability across mining and agriculture.  

“Obviously, the Scope 3 targets are the most challenging,” Rebecca said.    

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“Western Australia is very geographically rich, but population poor. We’re a big, vast state of 2.5 million square kilometres, but only two and a half million people, and two million of those live within the West Australian metropolitan area –half a million of those living regionally.   

“But in the absence of many other public policy settings, industry has led the way in really being able to set their own targets. We have significant investment and shareholder bases and communities that have high expectations of us.  

Tim Hunt and Rebecca Tomkinson on stage at evokeAG 2024.

Rebecca Tomkinson, CEO, The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, shared her thoughts in ‘Mining and agriculture: Shared challenges, shared knowledge, shared bounty’ at AgriFutures evokeAG. 2024. The fireside chat was facilitated by Tim Hunt, Principal of Tim Hunt Consulting. Image | Mr.Wigley Photography.

“Many of our companies already have very ambitious plans for decarbonisation and I think it’s important to be able to give the opportunity for industry to see what it can achieve, but also to be able to talk about that as a whole community.”  

2. Embracing technological innovation

The integration of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, holds promise for enhancing safety, reducing emissions, and improving operational efficiency. Leveraging AI for predictive analytics and remote operations heralds a new era of productivity and sustainability in both agriculture and mining.  

“There’s so much we can learn from each other. For instance, the GPS technology on tractors is now being leveraged to be used on the haul trucks in the mining industry.

“To be able to have that remote application and be able to drive those efficiencies within our industry is just one of those examples of where we can collaborate and leverage off the knowledge that we both bring.” 

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3. Cultivating a skilled workforce

Attracting talent to both industries necessitates a paradigm shift in perception. By highlighting the intersection of technology, innovation, and environmental stewardship, mining and agriculture can appeal to a new generation of skilled professionals.  

Three people in safety wear on a mine site

Rebecca said attracting talent to both industries is a shared priority. Image | The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia.

“There’s a global search for talent and the skills across both our industries are very interchangeable,” Rebecca said.   

“A lot of mining happens right in the centre of Perth (through operation centres), and it really is leveraging that technology to be able to show that skill base and teach a new generation of how different agriculture looks today, because it’s not the same sector we knew 40 to 50 years ago. 

“For both industries, it’s about telling our story differently and reimagining who we actually are today.”   

4. Seeking sustainability and ESG credentials

Addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations is paramount for both industries, and Rebecca said agriculture is leading the way.   

“What we do need to be doing more as an industry is a lot of the work that agriculture has led,” she said.  

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“The wool campaign, the Buy Local, the investment in brand building; we as an industry need to look at that credentialing to be able to really demonstrate how the environment has been looked after, the health and wellbeing of our team members, our occupational health and safety.  

“Increasingly across the world, just like in agriculture, the provenance of that product is becoming more and more in demand, and our industry can really leverage what agriculture has led with in being able to build that procurement, and that recognition of the pipeline of all of the inputs to show this is how we also maintain our sustainable industry.

5. Collaboration for collective prosperity

The session underscored the importance of collaboration and knowledge exchange between mining and agriculture. By fostering synergies and leveraging shared expertise, these industries can navigate challenges and unlock new avenues for growth.  

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“Both industries have innovated, they’ve grown with their communities, and they’re both looking at how we can support the needs of our community and continually curious about how we can work together around our shared skills base,” Rebecca said.   

Rebecca Tomkinson, CEO, The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, shared her thoughts in ‘Mining and agriculture: Shared challenges, shared knowledge, shared bounty’ at AgriFutures evokeAG. 2024. The fireside chat was facilitated by Tim Hunt, Principal of Tim Hunt Consulting.

Tap into more discussions here about the role of agrifood tech in driving sustainability across supply chains, news from agritech startups and updates ahead of evokeAG. 2025 in Brisbane, Queensland.    

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