Over the years the mining industry has been leading in innovation to make mining a safer industry for those who work there and to reduce the impact on the surrounds, balanced with keeping up with demands of the market.
Automation is becoming increasingly prevalent in the race to make “intelligent mines”. Driverless trucks have started to take on more of the workload and there are ambitions of automating trains along with using robotics. This will also free up workers to man drilling efforts that will drill even deeper into the earth that was previously inconceivable to reach by humans.
Another innovation is the use of drones to map the landscape of the mine, so that the drastic changes to the landscape can be monitored as the blasting and excavation can cause microquakes.
Multiple data streams are constantly being fed into improved data management tools and real-time dashboards to enable better planning and detect risks sooner. This coupled with the exponential intelligence of AI and machine learning mines are able to mitigate risks and manage downtime. All in real-time.
Radar geospatial data, which can be remotely managed, can help deduce what lies beyond obstructions or can detect faults and instabilities within slopes in open pit mines. The feedback is real-time and can be used in time to evacuate both humans and machines from unsafe areas.
A major innovation is finding alternatives to using explosives to blast open the earth. This includes machinery that is able to drill into rock or even cut or chip away at rock. This also enables people to return to mines to reach abandoned, but valuable properties such as ore.
Lastly, the use of digital twins is becoming increasingly valuable to predict outcomes and scenarios related to specific machinery as opposed to relying on industry norms. What makes them a replica and not a copy is that sensors are attached to the machinery that feedback data and information of the real life situation that then empowers those in charge to scenario plan accordingly.