Clean Energy Drive 'Fuelling Tech Adoption in Mining'

International law firm White & Case says the need for efficiently mined critical minerals is making technology a core component of mining strategies

The global move from fossil fuels to renewable energy is driving a technology revolution in mining, says a recent report from a multinational law firm.

The report – Technology: The Hottest Commodity in the Mining & Metals Sectors – from global law firm White & Case, says that technology is becoming “a core component of mining strategies” as the sector seeks cost efficiency in its quest to supply enough critical minerals to meet the demand of the energy transition.

White & Case says technological innovation is occurring “across the spectrum of the sector”, and that this includes mining companies acquiring, and commercially scaling, decarbonisation intellectual property (IP).

It says the sector is also turning to tech for improvements to exploration for low- or no-emissions mobility and energy systems, as well as for: recycling initiatives; operational uses of AI; and the licensing of battery designs for production. 

The report says that the bid to reduce emissions for existing systems is a significant driver of patents and technology commercialisation.

“Technology is increasingly becoming a core component of mining and metals sector business strategies,” report co-author and White & Case partner Daniel Turgel, told the Canada-based The Northern Miner publication.

IP 'becoming a valuable asset in mining'

He added that IP is becoming a valuable asset that is “exchanged among industry players to boost efficiency and reshape business models”, and continued: “Technology actually becomes the currency, so that you might contribute your technology in return for an equity stake or some kind of debt instrument."

The company also says that growing demand for the critical minerals needed for energy transition are creating more opportunities for investment and “opening the sector to entrepreneurs, investors and downstream participants”.

It gives as an example BHP and Rio Tinto's joint invitation for expressions of interest from technology providers to help improve performance levels. It also mentions the involvement of Apple in ELYSIS, a joint venture between Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is designed to scale up a breakthrough technology that eliminates greenhouse gases from the aluminium smelting process.

White & Case says such innovation is “new for a generally conservative sector”, and adds that the trend underlines the growing importance of “securing and managing IP rights amid the potential for new legal challenges”. 

It adds: “While hardware traditionally dominated the spotlight, the rise of software and AI has the potential to revolutionise mining operations. 

“Machine learning and AI have already provided considerable improvements in efficiency, accuracy, and safety mine planning and processing.”

It added that GenAI is opening new possibilities around geological data, and that companies like BHP and Vale are leveraging this to improve safety, maintenance, and operational efficiency.

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