We’re always hearing about how automation and artificial intelligence are transforming mining. But there are other technologies that could change the future of the mining sector, and you might not have even considered their potential.
Drones are ideal for exploration, mine site mapping, detection of anomalies and evaluation of dangerous areas. They can give a bird’s eye view of a prospect or mine site without the requirement of a human worker placing themselves in a dangerous situation.
Usage of drones, similar to automation, will have a positive/negative impact: it will decrease workplace risk, but also take away some mining jobs. US jobs in mining declined by 60% between 1980 and 2015. This is not inherently a bad thing: miners may be upskilled or reskilled into other areas, and the mining sector becomes safer. Many of the mining jobs in the late twentieth century were unsafe, laborious and difficult.
Drones, like automation, will reduce the risk usually associated with mining. They can evaluate a situation before a mining company moves in, therefore reducing the risk of going into a dangerous situation without prior knowledge.
Blockchain (for more than just supply chains)
If you’ve been reading the news – or even just our blog – you might be familiar with blockchain technology’s usage in supply chains. At Blockhead Technologies, we’re using blockchain technology to make supply chain management easier and more transparent with our STAMP platform. However, blockchain has more potential than just supply chain management in mining.
For example, it can secure, decentralise and integrate mining data. Plus, if you’re still using paper to trace your company data, making it digital can make everything more integrated and easier to access. Blockchain can also be used in things such as:
- Securing AI and automation
Blockchain possesses an almost infinite capacity to improve the mining sector. As time progresses, more opportunities will arise.
AI’s potential beyond data analysis
Artificial intelligence has more potential in mining than data analysis or mineral exploration. It can also be used in digital twinning, creating a digital replica of a situation to avoid safety concerns and to optimise efficiency. AI could also be used to fulfil the potential of automation. So, automated trucks can become intelligent and function on their own with limited human intervention. Because of its capabilities in data analysis, decision making, digital twinning and risk management, the uses of AI in mining are almost endless.
AI can also combine with other technology: blockchain, autonomous vehicles or machines. It can also integrate with human work.
Machines (not just autonomous vehicles)
Robots have a myriad of uses in mining, and only one of them is usage in autonomous vehicles. Machines can do jobs that would otherwise put human workers in dangerous positions. They can also do monotonous jobs quicker, more efficiently and without the human constraints of boredom.
Some of the best uses for robots in mining, however, are ones you might not have considered: robotic drilling or robot assistants. In robotic drilling, automated machines remove ore from the ground by drilling into the rock and filling the rock with explosives. This can be dangerous for humans; for robots, the risks are far more limited.
You might have heard about the robotic assistant Julius. It was created by a team led by Dr. Bernhard Jung. Julius assists miners in tasks that would otherwise be unsafe or monotonous. It was tested successfully in the Reiche Zeche mine.
Technology has potential uses in mining beyond our imagination, and we are constantly discovering more and more. One day in the future, mines could be entirely autonomous and smart, allowing humans to do the more thought-intensive work.