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Solving complex challenges with open innovation

05 APRIL 2024

Our collaborative approach to finding and partnering with external vendors to solve challenges at our operations.

Innovation and the implementation of new technologies unlock value in our business and contribute to safer, cleaner and more productive operations. 

Sometimes we need to cast a wide net to find an innovative solution for a particular challenge. To do that, we employ open innovation – a collaborative approach to finding and partnering with external vendors to develop new solutions.

“Open innovation involves being public about our challenges and leveraging the global network of talent, experience, and R&D funding that exists around the world to help us solve them,” said Chris McFarlane, Manager Innovation.

“It’s a great option for bringing in new ideas when traditional approaches have been exhausted and can provide an opportunity to collaborate with other industry participants if it’s a common problem.”

To identify a breadth of innovative solutions, we partner with Unearthed – an organisation which facilitates a community of suppliers, startups and innovators and challenges them to find creative solutions to difficult problems.

Past challenges include reducing mining traffic impacts for local communities, and for potential uses of excess water at our Hermosa Project – which received more than 20 unique ideas and propositions.

In early FY24 we launched the Fines to Fortune ( challenge, which sought concepts to unlock value and reduce waste by repurposing or reusing manganese slime tailings at GEMCO. 

Meanwhile, Illawarra Metallurgical Coal (IMC) is continuing to test ideas that were submitted in response to two challenges, reducing safety risks associated with the installation of ventilation ducting and reducing fugitive methane emissions. See below for more details. 


The VentSafe ( challenge sought solutions to reduce risks associated with installation of ventilation ducting at IMC.

In underground coal mines, ventilation ducting is regularly extended behind the advancing working face to remove dust and gases and keep people safe. This task is done manually and comes with a risk that the worker may be exposed to the significant suction pressure at the end of the duct.

To reduce risks associated with the task, the search began for new and innovative solutions. We received 11 quality submissions, three of which were shortlisted. Two solutions required development of a new prototype and were referred for industry funding and guidance, and the other – carbon split ducting – was the frontrunner and referred for a site trial.

“Leveraging open innovation generated some surprising new ideas to better manage ventilation installation within our underground operations, supporting our safety guarantee and with potential for sharing with industry,” said Simon Thomas, General Manager Dendrobium.

CH4 No More 

The CH4 No More ( challenge asked participants to find solutions for the abatement of low concentration ventilation air methane from the underground mines at IMC.

Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) released during the underground coal mining process and the challenge forms part of our approach to reduce IMC’s Scope 1 GHG emissions. 

CH4 No More attracted strong interest and engagement globally, resulting in the identification of five new options that were shortlisted for further consideration and development.

“We’re now actively working with selected innovators to test and develop their ideas further,” said Alex Pauza, Principal Concept Studies. “We’ve built great connections through the challenge and will continue collaborating with them on the next generation of methane abatement technologies.”