The pandemic aside, the mining industry remains at a crossroads. Shareholder pressure to make mines more productive and efficient, public pressure to make them safer and cleaner, and the challenges of climate change and the industry's part in tackling it are putting a huge strain on the industry. I believe participants in this generally traditional sector can either embrace technology and modernise or find themselves left behind when this decade is out.
I don't think I am being overly dramatic. Modern life increasingly forces us to change the way we do things. Take the electronics firm which just recently hit an unforeseen snag. A shipment of electro-mechanical equipment for a mine was facing its final test, with the buyer, under normal circumstances, required to be in the room. With the world in lockdown, there was no easy and fast way for the buyer to get from South Africa to the factory in Brazil. So the electronics maker decided to throw technology at the problem: bringing the final test to the customer using high-definition cameras and web-based telephony. A good example of how a challenge can be met with tech and wit.
Embrace it or not, almost every aspect of the mining industry stands to benefit from using technology wisely, not least the people working at mine sites, or living near them. Following some catastrophic tailings dam failures in recent years, there has been an urgency to develop fleets of drones and more effective sensors to spot problems before they get out of hand. Automated trucks, conveyors and haulage systems are reducing the need for workers to be close to fast-moving machinery. Robots are being developed that can take over more hazardous parts of a human's job.
Increased automation and smart control of the myriad of processes that make up a modern mining operation can make these sites much more efficient, cleaner and safer.
For this issue, Mining Magazine spoke with technical experts, engineers and executives about a wide array of ideas, products and developments in automation, robotics and control systems that are in use today, being developed or are still at the concept stage.
The articles explore the use of technology in traditional settings as well as new frontiers, and how miners will be able to go back into abandoned mines and go deeper than has been possible with conventional methods.
We hope our ‘Automation and Control' issue will find you well, and please stay safe.