The head of one of Australia's biggest engineering groups says the country's mining sector urgently needs to upgrade its technological capabilities.

Andrew Wood, chief executive of WorleyParsons, said the adoption of the latest digital technology by the mining industry is falling badly behind other sectors of the economy, despite the demonstrable benefits that these advances can provide.

He noted the mining sector needs to embrace the innovations in digital technology which are sweeping other industries, pointing out that such advances could help resource companies deal with Australia’s high cost operating environment by raising efficiency and slashing expenses.

Addressing a Melbourne Mining Club lunch, the engineering head said one key to improving efficiencies in the mining industry would be the use of digital technology to design and build virtual software versions of major resource projects before breaking ground on them in reality.

According to Wood the creation of these digital versions of projects would dramatically raise the safety and speed of the their construction in reality, as well as result in a three to five per cent reduction in capital costs.

Andrew Wood

Andrew Wood

The concentration of information and knowledge for projects into a single database which can be accessed by suppliers, operators and other parties to the project could achieve even greater improvements to efficiency and economy, potentially reducing project cycle time by 20 per cent and design cost by as much as 70 per cent via the re-usage of data.

Wood lauded the use of digital software models by other industries, such as the aerospace, automotive, defence and nuclear sectors, and said that they provide ample proof of the benefits conferred by the adoption of the technology.

He pointed in particular to the digital simulations employed by the airline industry to reduce the costs and risks associated with the development of new planes.

“We definitely should be looking outside our own industry, considering what others have managed to do and what they’ve achieved and be broad enough and humble enough to be able to see that.”