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Interview with Debra Watson - A practitioners view of technology and ESG risk

Updated: Oct 2, 2021

Phone: +61 408 675843

NSW, Australia


30-year career as an environmental scientist.

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that studies the complex interactions between the physical, chemical and biological components of the environment, their relationships and effects, and application of our understanding of this to achieve sustainable development.


Mining is an interesting juxtaposition; it presents a broad range of environmental and social threats and opportunities. Mining is necessary, it provides many of the raw materials that contribute to improved standards of living. And with the ever-increasing growth in population there is an ever-increasing and, at times competing, demand for natural resources. It is the perfect environment for the application of environmental science.

Technology use, value and change

The ability to identify and manage ESG risks associated with mining activities is dependent upon the ability to monitor the local and receiving environment, be it the natural, built or human environment, analyse the interactions and effects and deploy appropriate controls so as to minimise the risks.

Monitoring equipment has progressed from simple mechanical and electrical sensors, manual sample and data collection and time-consuming external analysis to automated in-situ and remote measurement and data communication via wireless network connected IoT sensors and UAV and satellite platforms providing for almost unlimited real-time data acquisition that can be used to provide greater visibility, understanding and control of ESG risks.

Data and information systems have progressed from relatively simple conceptual modelling and paper-based journals and newspapers to predictive analytics using cloud-based big data platforms that provide for rapid correlation analysis of millions of discrete data points from almost any source and global communication via the internet and mobile devices.

Real-time data acquisition integrated with automated control systems have led to significant improvements in the control of ESG risks. Manual observation and control systems have been replaced with programmed logic and remote-control systems. Remotely operated and / or autonomous operation of equipment is increasingly removing humans from many of the sources of fatal risk present in mining operations.


Speaker biography

Debra is a ‘hands on’ environmental science practitioner with 30 years of experience within the mining and manufacturing sectors. Debra’s roles within industry have focused on establishing and implementing frameworks, programs, and human capital development to identify, assess, manage, and monitor ESG risk. For the last 15 years Debra has passionately pursued the protection of worker health and safety and proactive environmental stewardship within mining operations in developing and emerging nations with the aim of mentoring and developing world-class HSE practitioners across the globe to support positive sustainable development outcomes.


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