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The emergence and development of knowledge intensive mining service suppliers in the late 20th century

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:12 authored by Osvaldo Urzua
During the late 20th Century the mining industry went through an important technological rejuvenation that drove high rates of innovation, productivity growth and organisational change. This process included the emergence of knowledge-intensive mining services (KIMS) suppliers, who performed functions outsourced by mining companies, gradually strengthening their capabilities, enlarging their geographical scope and becoming a globally organised sector. But this was uneven across different mining economies. For instance, while numerous Australian KIMS suppliers emerged and achieved international competitiveness, few did this in Chile. Focusing on Chile, this thesis explores the reasons for the limited development of KIMS suppliers in a developing mining economy. It examines the technological learning that shaped the KIMS sector evolution in Chile by contrasting it with the Australian experience, using a two level learning model that integrates: (1) the interaction between industry-level factors that shaped the potential for learning at the micro-level; and (2) the interaction at the micro-level between accumulated capabilities and learning efforts by firms to exploit the potential for learning. KIMS learning is examined over four stages: (i) Gestation (1940s - early 1970s); (ii) Emergence and Development (mid-1970s to early 1980s); (iii) Internationalisation (late 1980s to late 1990s); and (iv) Consolidation (early 2000s and still going on). Over these stages, KIMS sector learning was much more limited in Chile than Australia, either because there was a lower learning potential and/or because firms carried out limited learning efforts to exploit the potential. At the first stage mining companies in Chile played a weak role as incubators of KIMS capabilities. Consequently, during the second stage there were few KIMS suppliers capable of profiting from the rejuvenation being experienced by the global industry. Also, with limited stimuli from the growth of mining in Chile, suppliers undertook limited learning efforts. So, the third stage found Chilean KIMS suppliers unprepared to exploit the learning potential that came with internationalisation; and the learning opportunities inherent in the significant expansion of Chilean mining production were captured by foreign KIMS suppliers, including Australians. Accordingly, Chilean KIMS suppliers started the Consolidation Stage without the capabilities to overcome the increasing barriers to participation in the industry?s continuing high learning potential.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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