The mining industry is a massive global entity, with a footprint in the soils of countries worldwide, including Australia. Here, it’s one of the cornerstones of our economy, having a massive effect on our country’s economic standing.
Sounds like a lot of pressure, right?
It is, and that’s why the mining industry is always looking for ways to increase productivity and reduce costs, all the while making their mine sites safer places for employees. Lately, a swathe of new technology is looking to give the mining sector a radical transformation.
Sitting at the heart of it all is mining IT. The automation, IoT, robotics, big data and AI that mine sites are incorporating at a rapid pace are all reliant on fast, reliable networks. Networks that need a rock-solid mining IT supplier.
This graphic, courtesy of Mining Technology, below shows how mining IT will outpace manufacturing, energy and pharmaceuticals.
Automation and Robotics in Mining
Traditionally the mining industry has been fairly satisfied with their human-operated, large-scale machinery. Lately though, factors have combined to urge them to become more automated and lean on robotics more.
For a start, the advancement of the technology in that space has made it hard to ignore. It’s in a position where the tech is now useful and functional rather than experimental and can really assist in helping to solve problems the mining industry is facing. These problems include:
- Reducing the negative impacts of mining on the environment.
- Dealing with chronic skilled labour shortages.
- Reducing health and safety incidents on mine sites.
What Automation Looks Like
In the pursuit of solving the above three problems, there are several ways in which automation and robotics present themselves on a mine site. Here are some examples:
- Autonomous hauling systems (AHS): These are large trucks that move material around a mine site, typically from the pit to where it needs to be processed. They look identical to a human-operated truck but through a combination of sensors and GPS technology, they’re operated autonomously. These trucks can work 24 hours a day, in a manner that optimises fuel consumption.
- Drilling Robots: Drilling can involve operating in unforgiving environments that are dangerous for human operators. Robotic drilling and blasting platforms negate this danger, while increasing productivity and reducing waste and eco-impact. The drilling robots can range in size from a mobile rover to a full-scale blasting unit.
- Exploration Robots: Exploring vast areas of inhospitable terrain for minerals is a costly and laborious process. Drones, robots and submarines can be specially equipped with sensors and cameras to help identify mineral deposits. They’re able to get to hazardous locations that aren’t safe for human operators, at a fraction of the cost.
The examples above show automation and robotics can clearly help the mining industry deal with the problems of labour shortages, safety and eco-impacts while improving their own productivity and bottom line.
The effect of advancing tech on mining doesn’t end there, however…
The Role of Big Data and AI
Knowledge is power, and data fuels knowledge. ‘Big data’ has become something of a buzzword across many industries, and the mining sector is no different. If used properly, big data will provide massive competitive advantages. Essentially, it’s the collection of immense pools of data that can then be analysed and used to come to better informed decisions.
Data is interwoven into every function of a mine site. To be able to collect it, collate it and use it to improve operational efficiency and mine site safety is incredibly exciting. With the right network and the right technology, this can happen in real-time, allowing for instant and continuous improvement.
Artificial Intelligence comes into its own with the analysis of big data. Humans simply wouldn’t be able to absorb and process the sheer amount of data collected from a mine site’s operations. AI can, and it can deep learn from what its collating to identify patterns and figure out ways of improving operations.
The result? Faster decisions and improved accuracy. Less errors, therefore greater productivity. Less downtime. Improved health and safety. A smaller environmental footprint. The list goes on!
Mining IT – The Linchpin
All the tech advancements we’ve mentioned above need robust and fast networks to operate successfully. Networks that allow for the transfer of huge amounts of data that can be analysed in real-time. Networks that the vast array of sensors and Internet of Things devices can rely on to operate, and that allow autonomous vehicles and robots to seamlessly communicate with headquarters.
The installation and management of these networks is why mining IT is continuing to grow at such a rapid pace. It’s essential for the dramatic reshaping of the mining industry that’s currently taking place. Mining IT providers need to understand the context of the space and where it’s heading and provide a service that matches. A service rooted in reliability and immaculate communication abilities, that allows for tech scalability and a future-proof mine site.
Contact the Mining IT Experts
Smile IT has been a mining IT service provider for many years now, helping our clients to future-proof mine sites, from Moranbah to Mt Isa. A huge technological shift is underway in the industry, and we ensure mine sites have the IT infrastructure in place to handle it. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch and one of our friendly IT experts will answer them for you.
When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!