The mining sector has always used the latest technologies to stay at the forefront of its work and keep up with the times. From extraction to processing and even shipment, the industry requires technology at every level of the business.
Current Tech Needs
Spatial data visualization is used to create more detailed and precise 3D models for depth perception and detail. The human brain is better able to understand and relate to complex, interrelated issues using 3D modeling. Often, that modeling can be supported with virtual reality (VR) to create an artificial software environment of the model using real-life data. Using VR, miners can experience the mine for themselves, plan a new mine before moving forward, and clear plans in greater detail without being in the field.
From above, mining companies use automated drones to produce the same results as a helicopter flyover, with lower costs and operations time. These drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) can do safety and surveillance surveys, asset management, stockpile measurement, infrastructure inspection, time-lapse photography to check progress, site mapping, and more.
Using the latest technology allows mining companies to innovate and address challenges at a more efficient and cost-effective level. This technology is also driving a more sustainable approach to mining as the industry continues to accelerate its environmental, social, and governmental goals over the coming years.
Future Tech Ramps Up
Now, a boom in the use of AI in the mining industry is set to shift the ground under miner’s feet. In the last few years, jobs, patents, and AI deals have been picking up, allowing the mining sector to take the next step into the future of operations and project management. According to an analysis of GlobalData data, AI is continuing to build a presence as companies complete more AI deals, hire for AI roles, and continue to mention it frequently in company reports, beginning in 2021.
The increase of financing, M&A, partnerships, and grants in the AI space has sped up, although there has been a slow down in the first quarter of 2021 from the fourth quarter of 2019.
Hiring continues to pick up as mining companies look to staff their teams with experts in AI development and implementation.
Another clear sign of the growing importance of AI in the mining industry is the rise of granted patents. From 2000 to 2014, there was an average of 2.4 mining patents related to AI granted. By 2020, that number rose to 13 patents, increasing the average number granted by 8.4.
These rapid shifts in technology are nothing new for the mining industry. The sector has always adapted quickly to the changing times and knows how to keep up with competitors both within the industry and among the many branches of the supply chain critical to its success. AI is helping companies use smart data and machine learning to improve operational efficiency, mine safety, and production workflow. Companies can now generate day-to-day data in half the time than what has been used in the field.
Some of the ways mining companies are using AI include mineral processing and exploration to find minerals more easily, as well as autonomous vehicles and drillers. Autonomous vehicles have been used in the industry for more than eight years, shuttling materials in their pit to pit operations and more. Drilling systems have also been equipped with AI to allow for a single operator that controls several drill rigs at once with AI-assisted software.
The efficiency and ESG gains made using AI and other technologies by the mining industry have given mining companies brand new ways to do their jobs, and produce at faster rates while maintaining social and environmental standards. The future is sure to see this trend accelerate, as the industry seems to be on the cusp of an AI boom.