INVENTION AND INNOVATION IN THE AUSTRALIAN NON-FERROUS MINING INDUSTRY: WHOSE TECHNOLOGY?

Authors

  • Diane Menghetti

    1. James Cook University
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      I am grateful to my colleagues, Jan Wegner, Kett Kennedy and Margaret Mack, for their help during the development of this paper. The paper distinguishes between ‘invention’ and ‘innovation’, where the latter term is used to denote the commercially successful introduction of a machine or process.


Abstract

Metalliferous mining was of major importance to the Australian economy throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The industry depended heavily on technology transfer for efficient and economical operations. The country's isolated mining fields tended to rely on adaptation rather than on invention, with toughness, portability and ease of repair and use being the prime criteria for the adoption of new machinery. This article argues that both the internationalism of the mining industry and the nature of its technology transfer blur the lines between invention, innovation and adaptation. Mining machinery, techniques and people were all highly mobile. Hence, attributing national origins to mining technology often seems irrelevant.

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