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Similar to the growth seen in other industries in the 21st century, the mining industry is experiencing a growing trend in the number of start-up companies in various mining-related operations. At the beginning of 2018 there are nearly 200 start-ups operating in the sector, and these companies are located all over the world.
What is a start-up?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a start-up as ‘a newly established business’. In an article on Forbes, Natalie Robehmed notes that ‘the key attribute of a start-up is its ability to grow… [and it] is a company designed to scale very quickly.’ Robehmed also says that start-up companies are often thought of as being solely tech companies, but notes that ‘a start-up, by definition, does not have to be tech-oriented’ (Robehmed, 2013).
Start-ups are very popular, not only in the mining sector but in other sectors as well. Many innovative ideas result from start-up companies, and these can be leveraged by traditional mining companies in the near future. Investors see value in putting their money into start-ups, and compared to other sectors the mining sector is lagging in digitalisation. So there is a huge potential to bring cutting edge technology and innovation to the sector through these start-up companies.
Start-ups cover most mining activities, and it is fascinating to witness the services, solutions and products they offer to the wider industry. Traditional mining companies should leverage the innovative services provided by start-ups instead of inventing everything by themselves. By doing this, a traditional mining company can accelerate its own progress towards sustainable mining – a hugely important consideration given the increased expectations for mining companies regarding social licence to operate.
Working with start-up companies also has the added advantage of bringing an outside perspective into the mining business as well, potentially leading to new, creative solutions to existing industry problems.
As shown in Figure 1, start-up investors use their money to open up new start-ups gradually. The upward trend in recent years is a positive sign for the current and future health of the industry, given the recent mining downturn. Investors have clearly seen value in investing in mining start-ups.