Top 10: Mining Trends

Top 10 mining trends
Mining Digital takes a look at 10 trends shaping the future of mining, including AI & ML, automation, 5G, cloud computing & sustainability innovations

The mining industry is undergoing a technological revolution, transforming its underground and surface operations. Companies including Rio Tinto, BHP and Vale are turning to autonomous trucks, drills and other equipment, to increase efficiency and safety.

Mining firms are also collaborating with technology providers such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Sandvik, Hexagon and Uptake on innovation roadmaps. Such strategic partnerships accelerate development and deployment of transformative solutions for the digitalised, sustainable mine of the future.

Innovations include sensors and data analytics solutions, for optimising ore and mineral extraction and to improve equipment maintenance. 

On the sustainability front, renewable energy integration is gaining traction, with mining companies installing wind and solar farms, and looking to electrify operations and fleets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

Mining tech improving health & safety  

Health and safety innovations include fatigue monitoring systems, proximity detection, and connected worker solutions. Worker safety is being improved by the use of remote operating centres, allowing mining personnel to control machinery from surface facilities. 

Training, meanwhile, is being enhanced by virtual reality experiences for skill development. 

On the operational front, Cloud computing and advanced analytics are enhancing decision making, while blockchain traceability solutions are helping to verify responsible sourcing for ethical supply chains.

In this article, Mining Digital explores 10 trends that are shaping the global mining industry. 

10. Diversity, equity & inclusion 

A recent McKinsey survey found that mining companies have made some DEI progress but that they can do much more to champion diverse talent to overcome talent shortages and skills gaps. McKinsey says mining companies that foster a diverse employee base have an edge in the competition for talent and will enjoy competitive advantages in terms of safety, productivity, innovation, and leadership.

09 Greenfield exploration

Greenfield exploration is driving the discovery of mineral deposits in new areas, away from the existing mines. Mining are increasingly seeking greenfield regions in the face of increasing demand for minerals and metals vital to the clean energy transition. Peru has a portfolio of 36 greenfield mining projects, including five requiring investment of more than US$2.5bn.

08 3D mapping technology

Exyn Technologies has launched Exyn Nexys, a modular 3D mapping and surveying solution for construction and mining professionals. The solution allows users to capture real-time 3D point-clouds in dangerous and inhospitable environments. It can be used as a handheld device or attached to a drone, ground robot, vehicle, or a backpack. Founded in 2014 Exyn is a specialist in autonomous robotics and data collection, and is based in Philadelphia.

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07 Deep sea mining 

With an expected growth of $15.3bn by 2030, deep-sea mining is growing, year on year. This is due to the fact deep-sea mining can ease the pressure on critical material mining through the mining of polymetallic nodules, which contain significant amounts of critical materials and have been spurred by the need for critical metals to support growing populations, urbanisation, high-technology applications and the development of a green-energy economy. 

06 5G technology

Tunnelling is the most difficult and dangerous of all mine operations accounting for more than 40% of all accidents. Underground operational safety relies on manual supervision, but more than half of tunnelling accidents are caused by human error. Now, thanks to 5G, networks can offer ultra high-bandwidth and the low latency necessary for remote and precise control of mining machines. This allows mine workers who previously worked underground to remotely control operations from the comfort of an office. 

05 Cloud computing

Cloud-integrated mining processes have the ability to monitor equipment, analyse data trends and anticipate processes, amongst other things. Cloud computing allows mining companies to make use of data processing and handling abilities without the need to maintain costly IT infrastructure. This results in lower capital expenses and operational costs. Cloud computing also helps break down data silos, allowing for more effective communications with third-party collaborators in their supply and industrial chains

04 Resilient supply chains

In a world riven with risk, cyberattacks, labour and material shortages, volatile commodity markets and geopolitical uncertainty can all impact the resilience of supply chains, and it’s an area mining companies are increasingly looking to address. 

Now, thanks largely to advances in AI and machine learning solutions, they can conduct risk analysis for every stage of the supply chain, which leads to proactive decision making and more-strategically planning, both of which improve supply chain resilience.

03 Increasing number of M&As

The mining industry is seeing an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions, with the energy transition a key factor. An estimated 5% of the 20 M&A deals conducted in 2022 were a response to consumer and shareholder demand for portfolio diversification and sustainability, data and analytics company GlobalData said in a report. A classic example of the ongoing BHP bid for Anglo American, which is being driven by the latter’s significant copper mining assets.

02 AI & machine learning 

Technological innovation is helping reduce mining costs and improve operational efficiency. For instance, machine learning algorithms can analyse geological data to pinpoint the most promising areas for resource extraction. Autonomous drilling and blasting equipment, meanwhile, can operate around the clock, increasing productivity. AI programmes can also monitor mining equipment, drive autonomous vehicles and analyse all data involved in every stage of the mining process.

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01 The green energy transition 

Certain critical materials and metals are required to power the green energy transition: lithium, nickel and cobalt for EVs and copper for renewable energy systems. As a result of this increased demand, mining companies are ramping up the momentum in which these materials are being mined. They will also optimise the way in which these operations are carried out, ensuring the efficiency of existing processing plants and operations.

The global critical minerals and metals market is expected to grow from US$11bn in 2022 to $17.6bn by 2027. 

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