Mining is an industry that can weather economic and technological changes. It’s something we’ll pretty much always need, at least until we work out how to synthesize every natural mineral we currently dig up.
But what does the future of mining look like? Here at Scribante, we like to keep an eye on the latest industrial developments. Below are a few examples of what we can expect in the coming years.
Carbon neutrality is a hot topic in all industries and countries. Mining is no exception, and considering the massive amount of power it uses, shifting to carbon neutral-production is vital.
Luckily, this shift could be easier than we might expect. Electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles are under development across the world, but it’ll still be some time before we produce engines powerful enough to mine minerals.
Caterpillar is already working on hydrogen-powered equipment and generators. Similarly, Anglo American has launched a hydrogen-powered truck at a platinum mine in South Africa. It aims to replace 40 diesel-powered trucks by 2026, which could save up to a million litres of fuel.
If we also switch to renewable energy for things like lighting buildings and recharging batteries, we’ll cut out a large portion of the CO2 created by mining. One company, B2Gold, added 7mW of solar power to its Otijikoto mine in Namibia a few years ago. While this might not work for all high-powered mining equipment, solar and wind power can certainly replace some of the more menial needs, such as lighting.
We’re currently undergoing a new digital revolution, and mining is no exception. With the rise of technologies like AI, autonomous drones, and IoT, there are numerous ways in which a mine can be digitised.
Some examples of how this will play out in the coming years include:
Automating simple processes can save manpower and time, freeing employees up for more complex tasks. An old-school example is conveyer belts, which automate moving ore from one area to another. But we can take it a step further and use automation for stock control, inspection, collection, and more.
AI has almost unlimited uses in all kinds of industries. With enough data, we could simulate structural variability and ore distribution in new and existing mines. Similarly, AI can be used to aid decision-making based on real-time and simulated data.
Sensors and IoT
IoT (Internet of Things) is a connected web of devices that capture and transmit data. In mining, this could mean real-time access to things like geological and safety information transmitted to the same device, or multiple devices across different sites. While we have this kind of information already, IoT technology makes it instantly accessible and even helps with simulation and collation.
The future of mining could revolutionise the industry for greater efficiency and less environmental impact. While the fundamentals will remain the same, access to more information means better decision-making.
If you’d like to know more about the future of mining or how to get involved, get in touch with Scribante.