SME 2023 team photo
SME 2023 team photo

Showcasing Technology and Autonomy Leadership at MINEXCHANGE 2023

We joined other industry leaders and innovators to discuss the future of the mining industry

By Caterpillar | Posted April 20, 2023

Nearly 6,500 mining professionals gathered in Denver, Colo., USA, in late February and early March for one of the industry’s most popular annual events: MINEXCHANGE 2023 SME Annual Conference and Expo.

The event was presented by the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME), with support from a number of mining companies and industry providers, including Caterpillar and Cat® dealer Wagner Equipment Co.

Billed as the only conference dedicated to all disciplines of mining engineering, MINEXCHANGE features a wide variety of technical sessions and speakers combined with an expansive exhibit hall. Beyond the chance to learn about new products, services, technologies and solutions, it’s an opportunity to gain new perspectives on a range of topics critical to the industry.

It’s also an opportunity to gather with colleagues, reconnect with other professionals from around the world, network across all aspects of the industry and make connections with students who will take mining into the future.

“Mining is big in terms of its machines and impact, but it’s a relatively small and tight-knit group of professionals who gain so much from the opportunity to be together and share our knowledge,” said Veronica Newhouse, Vice President of Aftermarket Services & Marketing for Caterpillar Resource Industries. “We know each other, we know our customers, and we understand the industry. We’re a group of passionate people committed to making this critical industry as innovative, safe and sustainable as it can be.”

Key topics for 2023 were centered around helping the industry build a sustainable future — focusing on innovations and advancements in the areas of health, safety, energy transition and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. People issues were also top of mind, with discussions around diversity and inclusion and building a pipeline of skilled talent for the industry.

Industry thought leaders and innovators, including a number of Caterpillar experts, shared information on these important topics as part of the extensive MINEXCHANGE program. The Cat booth also touched on these issues.

SME 2023


The Caterpillar Experience

The sold-out MINEXCHANGE exhibit hall featured over 800 booths presented by nearly 600 companies, from providers like Caterpillar to some of the world’s largest mining companies.

While the expo space wasn’t large enough to display actual mining machines, the joint Caterpillar and Wagner Equipment booth focused on some of the company’s biggest differentiators: technology and autonomy.

Caterpillar commits significant Research & Development funding to innovation. The booth was staffed by subject matter experts eager to discuss how these advanced solutions help mining companies more safely, sustainably and economically extract the minerals our world needs.

Another focus of the booth was showcasing the diverse growth opportunities — including a number of high-tech positions — that are available at Caterpillar. On-site team members were proud to share information on their own career journeys as well as discuss specific opportunities that are currently available.

A machine simulator provided by Wagner Equipment allowed visitors to experience what it’s like to operate a Cat dozer. Simulators are an important tool used to build operator skills before they train on actual machines.

“Caterpillar and Cat dealers support the mining industry together, so it makes sense that we presented our message to the industry in the same space,” said Newhouse. “Cat dealers are an important differentiator for Caterpillar. We accomplish more together than we ever could alone.”

Technical Sessions

One of the things that makes MINEXCHANGE different from other mining shows is the focus on education and information beyond the iron. More than 620 presentations and papers were submitted for consideration and 116 were presented during the event.

Topics ranged from specific operational activities such as improving stockpile capacity and controlling dust to broad industry issues like addressing a skills crisis, implementing autonomous haulage and reducing carbon footprint.

Seven Caterpillar employees were selected to share their expertise in these technical sessions. Some presentations were machine- and operations-focused, while others centered on people and processes.

Sarah Loomis
Bob Riggle
Brett Haskins

Sarah Loomis, worldwide mining technology product support and worldwide autonomous operations manager within Cat MineStar™ Solutions, Canada mining region manager, presented “Attracting Diverse Talent to the Mining Industry,” sharing her insights on this critical industry topic. Loomis has been focused on the mining industry for the majority of her nearly 20 years at Caterpillar.

“We really struggle with attracting diverse talent to the mining workplace,” said Loomis. “At the same time, we’re facing a skills crisis — which makes attracting new people, particularly women, even more important. As a result, we continue to set aggressive and transparent targets for gender diversity.”

A gender-diverse workforce does more than simply fill a skills gap, however. “Studies show that a diverse workforce is higher performing and highly engaged — which translates to better overall performance,” she said.

Caterpillar has a number of initiatives in place to attract more diverse and mid-career employees, as well as to support those the company already employs.

Caterpillar’s Robert Riggle is one of those who supports these diversity efforts. He also presented at MINEXCHANGE, sharing his insights from a 45-year career in an industry that has been predominantly male for the majority of those years.

“When I began working in mining, there weren’t a lot of women working within the industry,” Riggle said. “But today, more and more women are entering the field in various roles, and they need allies — people like me who understand the challenges they face in a male-dominated world and who are willing to stand up and help them not only overcome these challenges but also thrive in their careers.”

Riggle is a mine site performance consultant who built his expertise working in several mining operations before joining Caterpillar. In addition to presenting his thoughts on building a more inclusive mining industry, he also had an opportunity to share his specific expertise on electric rope shovel operations.

Another Caterpillar expert, Julius Fernandez, was selected to present on the topic of autonomous mining. A MineStar Solutions application specialist, Fernandez discussed the challenges mine sites face when implementing autonomous haulage — in particular the new procedures, infrastructure and roles and responsibilities that are required with a change of this magnitude.

Fernandez said it is critical that sites appropriately manage the change associated with the implementation of any new technology. Fortunately for Caterpillar customers, the company has autonomous specialists on each site to optimize the operation and assist with comprehensive change management.

A Caterpillar change management expert also presented at MINEXCHANGE. Technology Change Enablement Manager Brett Haskins presented “Aligning your People, Processes and Technology.” As a change management expert and consultant, Haskins has seen firsthand the impact that disruptive technologies can have an operation and how important it is to manage that impact to ensure mines are able to get the most value from their investment in technology solutions like autonomy.

“Change is inevitable,” said Haskins. “And while many companies recognize it, most struggle to adapt. They see the benefits that technology can bring, but don’t always understand what it will take to realize those benefits.”

Haskins said the first step is to recognize the impact these changes will have on people, understanding that how they respond will have a direct impact on the success of any new technology implementation.

“Engaging change management early promotes a seamless implementation of new technology by supporting the people along the journey with knowledge, skills and confidence to embrace the new normal,” Haskins said. “At Caterpillar, we’re committed to helping our customers realize the long-term sustainable value of technology by helping them connect people, technology and culture.”

Other Caterpillar presenters included:

  • Cat rotary drills product expert Gregory Scott, who discussed the basics of autonomous drilling, explaining that human monitoring and interaction are still required to ensure drilling performance.
  • Samantha Melchiori, products and operations manager for mining asset health, who discussed how technology can help mine sites better manage the health of their machines, reducing unplanned downtime and lowering overall operating expenses.
  • Product performance consultant John Hoffman, who shared information on mining equipment performance metrics, and how they can offer insight into application severity, operating practices and contract financial health.

“We’re proud of the Cat experts who shared some of their vast knowledge with the audience at MINEXCHANGE,” said Newhouse. “We appreciate the educational aspect of this event and the opportunity to share and collaborate with others in the mining industry.”

In addition, Caterpillar autonomy application expert Chelsea Gilbert was recognized by the SME Mining & Exploration division for her efforts as Program Area Manager for the Innovation and Technology (I&T) technical program at MINEXCHANGE. She led 11 co-chairs coordinating seven sessions, with topics such as machine learning, space mining, automation, artificial intelligence, drone technology, and ESG aspects of innovation.

“The I&T section had a record-number of abstract submissions this year, necessitating the creation of three additional session slots to accommodate more presentations in this space,” said Gilbert. “It was a busy and exciting year, and I&T continues to provide the forum on sharing on some of the most-discussed topics at the conference. It was a pleasure to lead this section of the technical program, and I am honored to receive the award from the Society.”

Award presentation


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