Modernization in mining will be driven by technological innovation, which in turn needs to be driven by research and development. Digitalization is the catalyst that helps mining operations become smarter. The goal is turning to the safest, most efficient, intelligent, cost-effective, and sustainable manner possible. But with the great potential there are also challenges that have to be mastered.
Some important points to achieve this
- Increase of equipment power and reliability
- Increase of productivity of extracting units
- Personnel training and professional development
- Preservation, and restoration of the environment
- Automation, digitalization
- Changing of mine layouts
- Protection of natural resources
- Risk asessment and monitoring
The goal is in building an efficient autonomous production system that is carbon dioxide-free and has the highest conceivable level of safety. In the future autonomous and digitalized mine, people and machines will work side by side.
Robots, machines, and drones can connect seamlessly with digital transformation efforts, integrating data analytics, AI, and machine learning. Electric and autonomous vehicles and equipment will increasingly impact the mining industry. With this, mines could see an increase in productivity and safety and at the same time become more environmentally friendly.
Drones and robots can also be used to replace humans in performing inspections, and survey tasks, especially in inaccessible or dangerous areas. This leads to a safety and health increase for the staff, as they are just checking and supervising the autonomous processes.
With huge amounts of inorganic waste and byproducts generated by mines every year the transition to zero-waste mining should be the goal. In open-pit mines, it will also be the goal to minimize the impact on the environment and replant trees in exploited areas and reduce pollutants and water use.
System security is essential as hacker attacks could reveal important data about production processes and technological advances to market competitors. In addition, a targeted shutdown of production facilities and an influence on raw material prices would be possible. Workers supporting digital infrastructure will need specialized skills, such as coding and cybersecurity. Programming will become indispensable, but also maintenance will become more important as a variety of sensors and electronic devices need to be monitored and calibrated.
As a whole, fewer employees will be needed to work in mines or dangerous places, but in the before mentioned areas, more and more new employees will be needed. Jobs composed of a high share of automatable tasks, such as those involving predictable, routine, repetitive work and the collection of data will be at a high risk of automation
Digital transformation and new technologies offer mining companies great opportunities to become more efficient, boost production output, and reduce costs while making the process environment safer. Besides mining becomes more environmentally friendly and green.