The world of mining is on the brink of earth-shattering changes. In the next fifty years, there will come a technology boom in the segment involving the use of robots, drones, driverless trucks and trains, as well as miniature unmanned devices. It’s the stuff of science fiction, and for sure, decades ago, it has never crossed the minds of those working in small rural mining towns that their work will be altered so much by technology.
In a report on Mining Australia, Morris Miselowski, a globally-recognized Australian business futurist, noted that robots and machinery will be doing the heavy lifting by 2050, as more and more miners man the remote control rooms. Most of the miner’s work will be done off-site, and would involve “collaborating with external specialists and supervisory staff.”
Let’s take a look at some of the technologies that will be aiding miners’ jobs in the near future:
The Internet of Things
In its 2013 report, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, the McKinsey Global Institute stated that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be largely used by the mining industry in the near future for data collection, keeping an eye out on process, decision-making, and optimizing workflows. Comprising networks of low-cost sensors and wireless or near-field communication devices, as well as drones, automatic drill rigs, trains and driverless trucks, IoT is meant to improve process optimization, prevent accidents at the worksite, predict maintenance requirementazs, as well as help companies conserve their resources (e.g. water and electricity).
According to McKinsey, the potential economic impact of IoT in 2025 is $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion across sized applications. IoT could also increase productivity “across $36 trillion in operating costs” of the manufacturing, health care, and mining sectors. Cisco noted that at the rate that analytics and cloud computing, smartphone use and the use of applications connecting customers and businesses is expanding, industries will continue to adopt IoT in their daily operations.
Tech Vibes cites Canada-based Dundee Precious Metals as one company that has successfully implemented IoT in its underground mine in Bulgaria. Dundee installed 45 kilometers of fiber optics to facilitate communication between team members and to allow real-time data flow through Wi-Fi. Within two years, the company has saved $2.5 million in operating costs and has increased production from just 500,000 to 2 million tons annually. The Totten Mine in Sudbury Basin, Ontario, which is owned by Vale, also uses a wireless network for tracking people and equipment underground.
The use of robots is also going to be more prevalent in mining operations in the near future. Robotics is a technology that is interrelated with as robots are manipulated through IoT programs. Examples of robotics technologies that are currently being used in mines are automated mining vehicles, vision-based inspection systems, sensor systems that see through dust, robots and sensors for mine mapping (3D mapping) and exploration, and GPS-free localization sensors, according to a flyer of the National Robotics Engineering Center of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotic Institute.
IoT-enabled robots can boost productivity because they can be used day and night, and allow for the convenient use of and optimization of mining processes and equipment. They also guide miners in using equipment and to maximize the extraction of minerals while making sure they’re operating in a safe environment.
The popularity of Blimps or Zeppelins as a passenger aircraft ended with the Hindenburg when it caught fire and crashed in 1937. According to Bloomberg Business, the catastrophe definitely sent Delag Airlines and the rest of Zeppelin manufacturers to obscurity; although thanks to recent engineering advancements, the balloon-like aircraft is back in business again. This time around, too, the gas doesn’t ignite.
In its new life, Zeppelins have found use in the mining segment, with Worldwide Aeros Corp. and Hybrid Air Vehicles taking the center stage as the primary suppliers. Worldwide Aeros’s zeppelins are seen by the company’s CEO Igor Pasternak as the right fit for transporting mining equipment to roadless terrains “because they are light and can take off and land vertically.” Fuel use is efficient too and cheaper, as Zeppelins only consumes about a third of the amount of fuel a cargo plane does, according to Pasternak. That’s quite a feat, considering that Worldwide Aeros’ airships are 500-feet long and runs at speeds of over 100 miles per hour.
Companies that are looking to using blimps to haul equipment to bypass icy roads to their mines include AIM-quoted firm Amur Minerals Corporation (OTC:AMMCF) and Petropavlovsk PLC (LSE:POG). Amur Minerals, in particular, would use the airship to transport construction and mining gear to its Kun-Manie mine in the Russian Far East. Otherwise, it would have to shell out some $150 million to construct a 350-kilometer road leading up to its mine, Amur chief executive Robin Young said to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Peter Hambro, Chairman of the Board of Petropavlovsk, noted to the news outlet that he is “invested in a maker of the airships and foresees the mining industry adopting them.”
This article may include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “project,” “estimate,” “become,” “plan,” “will,” and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks as well as uncertainties, including those discussed in the following cautionary statements and elsewhere in this article and on this site. Although the Company may believe that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, the actual results that the Company may achieve may differ materially from any forward-looking statements, which reflect the opinions of the management of the Company only as of the date hereof. Additionally, please make sure to read these important disclosures.
The impact of alternative financing on entrepreneurship
One of the biggest obstacles for entrepreneurs is raising their much-needed capital to launch their business. Case in point: 29...
The secrets of trading with fundamentals
Technical analysis often trumps a fundamental one when it comes to scrutinizing the financial markets. Forex traders often use technical...
Currency wars: Stock markets plunge, gold soars
Bond yields fall and the yield curve inverts more. History is littered with trade wars and currency wars. But negative...
Neo banking disrupts fintech
Neo banking is a concept wherein banks operate solely online or through apps. They don't have brick and mortar branches...
CEO Spotlight: John Fielding, Toronto entrepreneur, founder of Array Marketing
CEO John Fielding attributes his success to the people who surround him. In 1981, John and his brother Bill founded...