She said the sector was simultaneously experiencing "big bang" disruption with the advent of technology, as well as more insidious and slow disruption.
Either way, she said disruption shouldn't be feared and it was important to make sense of the "perpetual change journey".
Burns put a figure of US$60 billion on the value of automation, robotics and operations in the mining industry, thanks to a long-term study done by Accenture in conjunction with the World Economic Forum.
"We did the research with top 40 global miners over eight years," she said.
"And we were able to quantify that in dollar terms, so almost $60 billion of value impact on the industry positively around automation, robotics and operations."
Burns was also asked which emerging technology trends companies should address, if they were to build the partnerships needed to succeed in today's digital economy.
Of the five identified by Accenture's Tech Vision 2018, Burns explained that she saw the top three as data veracity, frictionless business and the internet of thinking.
With the growing volume of data available to the industry, she said "data lakes have become data swamps" and said the trick was to maximise the veracity of data.
She also believes interoperability is inevitable.
"This is the point where I might say something controversial," she warned.
Burns also talked about the need for "ingenious humans" and upskilling the workforce.
"If you're going to make big bets on intelligent technology, and there's a lot of investment in this, then you need to close the gap on skills and capabilities," she said.
Burns also recommended five areas for miners to invest in, in digital technologies.
Burns spoke with Mining Journal in a series of interviews for the title's Mining Disrupted series of reports.
On the line …
Ann Burns leads Accenture's resources team for Australia and New Zealand. She joined the global management, consulting and professional services firm more than 20 years ago. She has worked with a diverse range of clients across Asia Pacific and says her real passion is in finding answers to the challenging questions that digital is asking. Prior to joining Accenture, Burns practised as an architect and worked in construction and international business development.
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