As the Fourth Industrial Revolution drives innovation, it makes sense that mining is also becoming smarter.
The mining sector has experienced fast technological change over the last few years. However, recently miners – particularly bigger ones – have been pushing for a better, smarter mining sector. This is largely because mining companies want to optimise costs, increase productivity, and drive profit through the usage of automation, artificial intelligence and even blockchain. With the technology at their fingertips, why not make use of it? 2019 could be the year for smart mining.
The problem of smart mining
The digital transformation in the mining industry has not benefited everybody. There are a few people that stand to lose if the mining sector becomes entirely digital:
- Small miners
- Communities who rely on mining for employment
- Workers who do the jobs automation can do
To unpack this, we must look at the reality of those problems:
Yes, mining automation may result in substantial job loss. This is an unavoidable part of technological movements. However, as we have discussed before, jobs are created in other areas as some areas become obsolete. This job loss applies not only to commercial workers, but also communities who rely upon mining operations for employment.
Some communities will suffer as a result of mining automation. This means companies must ensure that the prosperity they bring to areas is sustainable and not temporary.
The question ‘how can small miners benefit from such a large scale, expensive change?’ is a good one, and one that we’ve addressed before.
Nonetheless, the essential point is this: small miners can benefit on a smaller scale. It’s possible to implement digital mining technology gradually. While some larger corporate companies can afford to pour money and resources into making mines smart, many cannot. Naturally, the mining industry faces challenges when it comes to implementing new, different technologies. This is why digitalization is a gradual process, beginning with things such as bringing AI into planning, blockchain in the supply chain, or even just some automation in the mining process.
Smart mining that benefits all, not just a few
As with Industry 4.0 and the potential inequalities of globalisation, the benefits of digitalized mining must be widespread for it to succeed. Those who suffer at the hand of globalisation will need assistance to escape the natural inequalities that are associated with mass digitalization.
Smart mining has the potential to bring incredible benefits and prosperity to miners. There are natural risks associated with the mining industry – coerced labour, dangerous conditions – however, digitalization poses an comprehensive solution. At Blockhead Technologies, for example, we’ve created our platform STAMP. STAMP traces mining supply chains with blockchain technology, to ensure that they are sustainable, ethical and secure. Other implementations include anything from autonomous trucks to entirely autonomous mines, or utilising AI to make processes quicker and safer, such as in the case of mineral exploration.
Smart mining is the future. However, we must ensure that the future of mining technology benefits everybody, instead of merely a few.