Rio Tinto’s head of group technical mining Santi Pal says the resources giant is close to realising a dream of having every step of its value chain connected and optimised in real time.

Speaking on day one of the Resources Technology Showcase in Perth, Mr Pal said the goal was within the company’s reach because of a system it began working on a decade ago called Mine Automation System.

“So what MAS does, it captures our mining and technical domain knowledge, combines it with a broad array of operational data, providing us insights to improve our business,” he said.

“We can now track nearly everything across our mines down to the content of every bucket of material to stockpile models and blend parameters.

“And this enables real time ore body optimisation at scale.”

Mr Pal said with each stage of the value change connected, the company could respond to changing market price points and grade and product quality requirements by flexing where and how it excavates, processes and chooses logistical routes.

He said digital disruption was proving to be a game changer across every facet of the mining industry and there was enormous value to be achieved by embracing it.

Mr Pal said until recently the mining sector had been focused primarily on automation but its value was limited and finite.

“We need to find new and more efficient ways to maximise the value, not just from our resources and ore bodies but also our equipment and we need to do it at a much faster pace,” he said.

Mr Pal noted global consulting group Ernst Young had listed the future of the workforce as seventh in its list of top 10 risks for the mining sector.

Risks included changing skills requirements, difficulty in attracting people with the skills needed for the mining and metals industry and increased competition for talent from other industries.

“Rio Tinto, like all our peers and industry partners, is working to mitigate these risks to position ourselves and our people for success,” he said.

Internally, the company offers new professional development opportunities, mentoring and career progression pathways.

Externally the company this week agreed to invest $10 million in a program targeting school children that aims to fast-track the development of the skills needed for the digital future.

It has also partnered with the South Metropolitan TAFE and industry peers to establish the first nationally recognised qualifications in automation.