TOP 10: Mining Innovations to Look Forward To
10.) Automated tunnel borers
The concept of automated tunnel borers isn’t new. Since 2012, Rio Tinto has been working with the Centre of Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) to build shafts and tunnels at a faster rate as part of Rio’s Mine of the Future initiative. Together, the two have designed a new tunnel boring system that is currently being implemented at Rio’s Northparkes Mine in Australia.
The future of autonomous boring is anticipated to be seen regularly in coming years.
9.) Ore processing
In addition to eco-friendlier ways, the mining industry is pushing for newer and more improved methods for ore processing. One new process, which has the potential to be maximized across the mining sector, is Copper NuWave™.
Designed and implemented by Rio Tinto, the technology maximizes mineral recovery while reducing waste. It also has the ability to cut water and energy consumption. The company is currently testing the technology at its Kennecott Utah Copper mine in the U.S.
8.) Simulation technology
The use of mining equipment simulator systems is on the rise in recent months as companies utilize the innovative technology to train operators. The use of simulation technology has a wealth of advantages including aiding in recruitment processes, improvements in productivity and reaction times in emergency situations.
Within the next few years, the use of mining simulation technology could very well be utilized across the mining spectrum.
7.) Revitalized excavators
One of the more anticipated innovations for the mining industry is the revitalization of excavators. Companies like Volvo and Doosan are helping to make the excavator of the future bigger, smarter, safer and more powerful. Together, the two have designed some of the most futuristic concepts that could very well come to fruition in the next few years.
6.) Automated rail system
Rio Tinto is already working on commissioning the world’s first automated, long distance, heavy haul rail network for the mining industry, but it won’t be the last. The benefits of an automated rail system include enhanced safety and efficiency as mining companies can rely on the innovative technology to safely and securely transport minerals to their required destinations.
5.) X-ray diffraction equipment
Already being utilized by a small group of mining companies, including diamond miner ALROSA, x-ray diffraction equipment is on path to become a global necessity. The equipment, which is currently used in diamond recovery, is an important method for the identification of phases in raw materials, for process control during ore beneficiation, and for the quality control of final mineral product.
4.) 3D Mapping
3D mapping is another technological advancement that is expected to make a big splash in the mining industry within the next few years. Companies like Rio Tinto, which has already implemented the software at its West Angelas mine in Western Australia, are using the innovative technology for their advantage to improving the way they dig up commodities as well as cut cost.
3.) Alternative energy
Utilizing alternative energy is something most industries are working to implement on a larger scale. The mining sector is no different.
Harmony Gold has been on the forefront of using alternative energy, most notably solar. The company is working to use mine-impact land and tailings to pilot biocrop procreating in the form of giant king grass and sugar beets to generate natural gas as a fossil fuel substitute. The initiative could lead to more companies utilizing innovative sources for alternative energy.
2.) Safety equipment
Safety equipment in the mining industry has progress considerably in the last decade. As the sector moves towards automation, companies are implementing more advanced technology to secure employees remain as safe as possible.
At this year’s NSW Minerals Council Health and Safety Innovation award ceremony, the top honor for innovation went to Centennial Coal for their Fit-for-Purpose Underground Boot. The mining boot is designed to provide ankle support and sole stability, comfort and full prevention of water ingress.
Another safety innovation that has the potential to sweep the industry is SmartCap. The technology, which works to combat fatigue, utilizes sensors on the wearer’s forehead to monitor signs of fatigue and assess their level of alertness.
1.) Autonomous mine site infrastructure
The number one mining innovation set to turn the industry upside down is autonomous mine site infrastructure.
Rio Tinto, which is the first company to envision the idea, has already launched initiatives towards its Mine of the Future. The three main components of mining include drilling, haulage trucks and long distance railway systems. Rio Tinto is working to automate all three in unison with operations. The system, which is set to be controlled by one main operational facility, will allow miners, ports and rail systems to be operated from a single location.
Deloitte predicts industry transformation - Tracking the Trends 2019 report
Deloitte has published the eleventh edition of its annual report on the mining industry. Tracking the Trends identifies the top ten trends transforming the future of mining in 2019
The Deloitte report endeavours to provide the mining industry with insights it can leverage to support its continued quest for productivity, capital discipline, strategic development and sustainable growth.
Philip Hopwood, Deloitte’s Global Leader - Mining & Metals, commented: “It appears that the mining industry is poised for greater growth than it’s seen in a decade, but today’s market realities are very different than those of the past. We’re now dealing with geopolitical tensions in the form of trade wars and tariff concerns, as well as looming asset shortages. Rising commodity prices should fuel expansion, but could also result in a return of inflation and the costs that go with it, eventually eating into margins.
Disruption and volatility has become the new normal and the pace of change is outpacing our ability to adapt. This makes it imperative for mining companies to clarify how they plan to drive value into the future and how they intend to respond when prices inevitably drop again.”
Here are the key messages provided by the 2019 report:
- Disruption and volatilitymake it imperative for mining companies to clarify how they plan to drive value into the future and how they intend to respond when prices inevitably drop again. To thrive into the future, mining companies will need to challenge the status quo by soliciting a diversity of opinions and taking the risk to do things differently.
- Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a key role, not only in helping companies envision future scenarios, but in identifying risks at an enterprise level and transforming the supply chain. Moreover, advances in finance platforms, sensor technology, autonomous vehicles, cloud- based solutions, and analytics are paving the way for the design of a digital mine.
- Understanding the needs and perceptions of people both inside and outside the organization will be critical. Companies must build a more diverse workplace and address succession planning, while fostering loyalty and retention among existing employees. At the same time companies must do more outreach to local communities, governments, and consumers so they can be more transparent and receptive.
Top Ten Trends Transforming the Future of Mining:
- Rethinking mining strategy - Embedding the discipline to deliver measurable value across the cycle
- The frontier of analytics and artifcial intelligence- Moving up the maturity curve
- Managing risk in the digital era - Exploring a new approach to controls and risk management
- Digitizing the supply chain - Why innovation requires integration
- Driving sustainable shared social outcomes - Finding value beyond compliance
- Exploring the water-energy nexus - Making the case for a systematic approach
- Decoding capital projects - Learning from past mistakes
- Reimagining work, workers, and the workplace - A blueprint for the future
- Operationalising diversity and inclusion programs - From theory to practice
- Demanding provenance- EVs and battery minerals provoke the desire for provenance