Innovative advances in technology, including digitisation, and automation, are significantly revolutionising the mining industry. Technologies such as AI & Big Data, autonomous vehicles, drones, automated sorting, and dewatering technology are reshaping the industry. Their benefits include but aren’t limited to improving mine safety, predicting mine hazards, and sending real-time information.
By creating more sustainable mining technologies and innovations we can be confident the industry will become greener, reducing the overall environmental impacts.
Here is a snapshot of just some of the ways technology is working to transform the industry.
1. Autonomous Vehicles
Self-driving vehicles are one of the progressions that mining companies are taking to improve the highly volatile sector. For a long time, mining has been faced with problems such as precarious conditions in the mines, lack of skilled labour, and high operating costs. Autonomous vehicles have provided a solution to this because they are safer, cheaper, and reliable. The vehicles integrate technologies such as GPS systems, two-way radio communication, and computing power to make navigation in mines safe and efficient.
2. Automated sorting
The mining industry has incorporated systems to separate valuable mineral ores from waste rock. Mining sorting equipment is not only a practical method to sort particles, but also a way to increase quality, yield, and productivity. The systems manage costs and have low downtime making mining operations highly efficient.
3. AI & Big Data
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data technologies present the mining industry with intelligent machines that work like humans and the benefits of data analytics to improve operations. With these technologies, mining is simplified because the devices can perform a variety of tasks such as drilling, blasting, and sampling. The application of AI and Big data also improves data exchange between users and reduces mining risks to workers because all risks are analysed.
The use of drones in mining solves numerous challenges in the industry by providing faster surveying, better blast optimisation, and improved surveillance of the mines. Data that was inaccessible or otherwise unsafe to reach can now be accessed and sent to the systems.
5. Dewatering technology
Influxes of water caused by weather conditions such as heavy rainfall can significantly slow down open-pit mining. For this reason, dewatering technology is used to handle the maximum inflow of water into the mines. These efforts reduce downtime and prevent the risk of operations.
Examples of Innovative Technology used in Mining
Different kinds of technology will benefit from certain types of mining techniques. For example, underground mines can utilise accurate noise and dust data to minimise health risks for employees or enable location tracking to keep your workforce safe. Meanwhile, surface mining, such as an open pit or open cast miners, can benefit from an automated fleet of remote-controlled equipment to help move materials with ease.
Hetech was involved in the manufacture of LASC (Longwall Automation Steering Committee) products to improve the safety of underground mining employees.
We specialise in the advanced manufacturing of IoT technology and electronics that can benefit the mining industry. Our Australian designed and made products can help you future proof your business, so get in touch today to find out more.
Mining has come out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in excellent shape. Thanks to this, the industry has been able to re-evaluate its focus and identify new opportunities within the sector, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and innovative technology has been identified as the strongest areas for growth.
PWC’s report “Mine 2021”, has highlighted some important lessons from the past 12-18 months and what this means for the future of mining. Although the report focuses on the top 40 mining companies, the lessons and opportunities identified are also relevant to all mining companies, big and small. We’ve summarised our top points from the report for you below.
1. Move to ESG as growth focus
With the International Energy Agency predicting a significant increase in demand for critical ‘clean energy’ minerals by 2040, opportunities lie in the growth of ESG within mining.
PWC reports that mining companies should begin to embrace more definitive ESG strategies to maintain and increase the value of their businesses, expand their opportunities, and cement their reputations as significant and valuable global players. These efforts to adopt low-carbon and more transparent strategies will open new avenues for investments and capital.
2. Rethink Supply Chains
Reliable access to goods and services is paramount. By bringing suppliers close to their operations, mining companies are able to build supply chain resilience, helping to secure reliable access to goods and services.
3. Embrace Automation
In a COVID-19 world where social distancing could continue to be part of day-to-day life, technologies that reduce the number of people onsite and increase the ability to operate these mines remotely provides an incredible advantage. Along with this, automation is working to reduce the manual labour involved in some tasks to create further efficiencies.
According to the World Economic Forum, 67% of repetitive and manual tasks and about 60% of tasks involving physical labour will be automated by 2025.
The industry is expected to speed up its investment in the Internet of things (IOT) over the next three years, improving health and safety and staff productivity.
At Hetech we have significant experience in supplying high-quality Australian electronics manufacturing and design solutions to the mining industry. Some of our work includes partnering with CSIRO to support their Longwall automation build, and Vanadium on the design and manufacturing of an innovative means of automating spiral splitters.
We will partner with you to develop an end-to-end turnkey solution to take your mining product to market.
Contact us now to discuss further.
Hetech recently attended The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne. The annual event is Australia’s largest mining EXPO where the world’s leading mining technology, engineering and finance companies showcase their latest innovations.
With the mining industry currently experiencing an unprecedented change in terms of process automation, IoT and AI, this years event was particularly exciting. There were several new technologies and innovations discussed which promise to make mining safer, efficient and more environmentally sustainable in the future.
Here are Hetech’s top five takeaways from this year’s event:
1. Sustainable Mining Innovation and Goals
Environmentally sustainable mining is in focus right now as climate change forces mine owners to reduce their environmental impact. As part of the initiative to create a more sustainable mining industry, the ReThink Sustainability Index was launched at the event which aims to help mines benchmark alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The tool, a joint venture between IMARC and ShineWing Australia, will help mine operators measure their progress towards meeting each of the SDG’s 17 goals for sustainability. It will also highlight strengths and areas of weakness which need to be addressed to meet the industries goals.
2. Digitisation of Mines
The digitisation of mines is starting to bring real efficiency benefits to mine owners. IIoT and other technologies have transformed the way data is collected and monitored. Processes that would have previously taken months can now be carried out instantaneously with little to no human intervention.
One such solution showcased at IMARC was CSIRO’s automated groundwater monitoring system. This innovative system uses sensors to remotely monitor groundwater levels deep in the mine. The data is then fed back to a central computer to provide 24hr monitoring for contaminants. Once certified the system will replace conventional manual water sampling methods, which can take up eight weeks to complete.
3. Continuous Operations with Automation
Continuous operation of mines is becoming more prevalent today thanks to the increased adoption of automation systems. Innovations such as remote-controlled vehicles and autonomous underground mining equipment mean workers roles are changing from being based behind the wheel or deep underground to working behind a computer screen.
One such solution was showcased by Hetech. The Australian electronics design and manufacturing company demonstrated its Vanadium Spiral ore sorting machine which is designed to integrate with gravity-fed spiral circuits to autonomously separate minerals. The solution minimises human intervention, reduces risk and helps to improve ore recovery percentages from underground mines.
4. Employee Safety through IoT and Automation
The safety of workers down the mine is of critical importance to mine owners and operators. IIoT and automation technologies can help keep workers safe by providing a range of solutions such as automated miners, tracking of personnel and real-time data collection.
Software company Strata creates software to provide real-time tracking and monitoring of personnel across the mine. The company’s StrataConnect wireless system is designed to work in the harshest conditions and does not require any pre-existing infrastructure or hard-wired backbone for installation. It can also be used for reliable communications between personnel including voice, text, and SOS messages, eliminating the restrictions of traditional TTE communications.
5. Mining Simulation & AI
A combination of technologies including AI, drones and big data have allowed mines to be mapped and simulated in more detail than ever before. This allows operators to predict the environmental impact of mining activities including assaying, drilling, sizing, crushing and transporting before they are carried out.
Simulation Engineering Technologies (SET) is a leader in the field with its SimMIne software used to create accurate models of complex mining systems. The solution allows operators to evaluate the development process in underground mines giving them a far better understanding of production system processes. This information can then be used to limit the environmental impact of mineral extraction and develop mitigation systems for environmental issues before they occur.
Our Final Thought
You can see from the above innovations showcased at IMARC that the transformation of the mining industry is in full swing. Mines are set for the biggest upheaval since the industrial revolution in the next few years as more innovative technology gets rolled out. As a result, mines of the future will be more environmentally sustainable, safer and offer greater efficiency than ever before.
To learn more about how Hetech’s electronics design and manufacturing can assist in improving your mining technology contact us today.