The growth of the developing world will likely require as many mineral resources over the next 25 years as have been used since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But those scarce minerals will become increasingly difficult to recover from the earth.
It's a basic problem of supply and demand, but the solutions are anything but basic for John McGagh, head of innovation for mining company Rio Tinto. "We look for big problems," he says. "My shop is not about incremental innovation. We ask ourselves one question: What can't we do today that, if we could do it tomorrow, would fundamentally change the business?"
Mining practices have remained largely unchanged for more than a century. So when Rio Tinto began developing its Mine of the Future program to bring new automation and remote operations to the 139-year-old company, McGagh looked outside for help.