The concept of the digital or autonomous mine is a compelling one.
It would cut costs, improve efficiency and mine safety. Digitalization streamlines the process to make mining a more independent, easier process.
However, digitalization seems to target only one player: the big corporations, with the money to fund it. Are we forgetting the small miners? Is it unrealistic to ask them to go digital?
What is digital mining?
The digital mine is autonomous. It’s efficient. It runs 24/7, because the mining is done by automated machines.
It also uses Industry 4.0 technologies to become autonomous. This includes:
- Artificial intelligence
- Machine learning
Mine workers are upskilled or reskilled into other jobs. Most control machinery from remote locations. Some jobs are lost, but many are redistributed. Making a mine digital requires an initial financial burden: restructuring, implementing and training. This often discourages companies, especially small mining ones.
The costs pay off in the long run. But is the initial expenditure of digital transformation too much for small miners?
Big ideas, but small plans
Digitalization of the mine can start small.
A small miner might bring blockchain into their supply chain management. They aren’t, however, at the stage to explore AI or automation. Or a miner might be interested in driverless trucks, but limits their focus to that. Automation has an initial high cost, but it’s a price that pays itself off quickly.
The WEF predicts that digitalization of mines could save:
- 610 million tonnes of CO2 emissions
- 1,000 lives and 44,000 injuries
- More than $425 billion
Automation alone could add $56 billion in value to the industry.
Implementing driverless trucks or automated processes can reduce harm and increase productivity. The value from this change would be beneficial and quick to outweigh the initial cost.
How can small miners incorporate digitalization?
The autonomous mine is reliant on two things:
The mine cannot exist without assured security. Digital mining technology depends upon safe systems. Remote attacks sabotage operations and have the potential to harm workers. We posted a piece recently on how to optimise cybersecurity in the era of the digital industry.
Then there’s connectivity. The digital mine is connected through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Technology demands connectivity. Eventually, all mining implementations will need to be interconnected.
So, if you bring in automation, but also want to use AI for data analysis, the two must work side-by-side.
It might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
AI, automation – and other new innovations in mining
Companies are bringing technologies like blockchain into supply chains.
This might seem small, but it can largely optimise processes and costs. The original cost of implementation is significantly outweighed by the benefits of blockchain. It removes intermediaries and subtracts unnecessary costs and stress from supply chain management. For companies who may even still be using paper-based tracking, blockchain could be revolutionary.
At Blockhead Technologies, we’re already using blockchain to make supply chain processes easier. Our platform, STAMP, allows mining companies to trace their supply chains from beginning to end. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small miner or a big one. BHT is here to help.
Click here to find out more about what STAMP can do.