Surface mining has become more than a sum of its parts over the past decade, as the evolution of equipment, monitoring tools and machinery accelerates.
As we read in this month's edition, strip mining and open-pit mining are being transformed by new technologies, but all with a direct thread linking the innovations to the engineering of the past.
Electrified and autonomous vehicles are gradually replacing mechanised earth-moving equipment of the past, while drill and blast has never been a safer, more digitalised part of operations.
Focusing on specific areas of the value chain, Kal Tire and other tyre companies tell our new deputy, Max Schwerdtfeger, how the sector is going through a significant shift, seeing more digital technologies and collaboration with start-ups to improve visibility, communication and efficiency.
On IoT, we hear from satellite technology provider Inmarsat, who say mining equipment manufacturers are leading the industry in data utilisation and digital innovation, as operators are held back by financial and workforce-related constraints.
A start-up spun out of the University of Sydney, Q-Ctrl, tells us how quantum computers linked to satellite-based sensors will play an ever larger part in mineral exploration.
Key applications will include remote detection of liquid water and mineral deposits through quantum-based gravity detection and magnetic field sensors. Quantum-enhanced precision navigation and timing (PNT) will also be deployed to provide guidance for long-endurance missions with limited telemetry contact.
A flood of acquisitions in the Norther European METs markets, and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, are covered expertly by Rebecca Campbell, who leads White & Case's Global Mining & Metals Industry Group.
Campbell expects the bolt-on acquisitions to continue as players such as Sandvik and Epiroc position themselves for digital transformation, and talks of "a real technological step change in the sector".
"It's very similar to how the other tech giants of this world operate when they bolt on smaller products or companies into their offering by acquiring them. This trend is certainly one that we see continuing, and these seem to be favoured at the moment as opposed to mega-mergers," says Campbell.
We also hear how Komatsu Mining showcased the company's strong automation focus at Minexpo 2021.
Notable announcements included the development of Komatsu's autonomous water truck, which is currently undergoing trials. The technology on the concept HD785-7 truck, which is based on Komatsu's AHS, autonomously controls both the truck's movement and water disbursement through the same platform.
The AHS allows the water truck to travel autonomously on a pre-defined haul road as well as working cooperatively with other autonomous trucks and staffed equipment. The system controls the amount of water disbursed, according to the vehicle speed and haul road inclination, as well as managing the watering history to avoid overwatering.
Hearing from so many diverse voices about the technologies being introduced to surface mining helps to illustrate an industry on the cusp of great change. We're delighted that you will be joining Mining Magazine as we continue to bring you insights into the exciting evolution underway.