The global mining industry is under pressure. In the short term, falling commodity prices are squeezing cash flow. Looking ahead, many existing mines are maturing, resulting in the extraction of lower ore grades and longer haul distances from the mine face; ore-body-replacement rates are in decline; and new-mine-development times are increasing. On top of this, worldwide mining operations are as much as 28 percent less productive today than a decade ago—and that’s after adjusting for declining ore grades.

The industry has shifted its focus to improving productivity by “sweating” existing assets, but this strategy will go only so far. Despite the industry’s booms and busts, the nature of mining has stayed the same for decades. Achieving a breakthrough on productivity performance demands rethinking how mining works.