Apart from the soaring prices of raw materials there are some exciting new technology advancements on the horizon for the resources and mining sectors, writes Daniel Smith.
The mining sector globally is risk averse. But with more scrutiny on safety of miners underground and sustainability of practices, the sector has learned to adapt and improve over time.
The advent of automation and machine learning equipment in mining can dramatically change the sector's shortcomings. Benefits include cost savings, mitigating occupational health and safety risks and increasing productivity.
The global mining equipment market is anticipated to reach 284.93 billion USD by 2025 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5%. Change drivers include global policy changes, autonomous equipment, streamlining process through automation and more accurate data mining.
Global policy changes
There are pros and cons to tech advancements in the mining sector. The biggest pro being more work and profits with less resources. Cons are the costs of investment. First a company will need to consolidate its current assets and pour money into new assets. The silver lining is the return, especially if your business is the first to implement new technology.
Let’s think drones, reaching heights and areas without anyone attached, controlled from afar. Reducing human involvement cuts the health & safety risk.
But why would a sector so change averse invest in a bunch of automated machinery which will slowly replace the people component altogether? A key driver to this change is reducing workplace fatalities.
Driverless cars, locomotives and remote-controlled equipment are all the rave. BHP has implemented this with their driverless trains in Australia.
Streamlining process through automation
Following the above, the aggressive digitisation of manufacturing, implementing and travel, there are opportunities to streamline processes that are menial and time consuming. For example hours spent manufacturing custom components by hand can be saved through keying in a code to machines such as the Mazak 350. The signs of these can be seen in companies such as Hydramech and BHP using digitisation to streamline their processes.
Data mining for the mines
Imagine collecting the data for a mine site before starting the project. Well, that’s not far off into the future. With the development of AI and machine learning an opportunity exists for miners to collect, understand and decide things based on data. This means the mining company can have all the necessary data to ensure how to allocate resources, reduce risks and increase productivity through efficiency.
Notable automation will occur among the following equipment: processing equipment, mineral drills and breakers, crushing, screening & pulverising equipment and surface mining equipment.
Equipment-wise, Sandvik AutoMine has developed automated underground loaders. Komatsu has an obstacle detection system. In Mineral Drills & Breakers, Komatsu has already released a tele-remote surface drill which is capable of geo-fencing, auto levelling, obstacle detection and mitigation, along with other features such as auto navigation.
These developments all enable greater safety by removing people from dangerous environments.