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Mining industry looks to technology for longevity

16 Sep 2019
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Mining firms around the world – including those in Australia – are looking to technology as the primary force that will have a major impact on their businesses in the next 15 years.

That’s according to Australian researchers in major mining report The State of Play. The report gleaned insights from 399 mining and service companies, including Rio Tinto, South32, and Oz Minerals.

It found that business models have been stable over the last 20 years, but that will soon change. According to the report, 75% believe that technology will take centre stage, ahead of partnerships, acquisitions, and exploration.

Technology areas of interest include robotics and automation, artificial intelligence, sensing, and data.

The report points to how data can be used for exploration purposes.

“Explorers are collecting large amounts of data, sharing it widely and applying advanced analytics and machine learning to identify new deposits - will we soon see an Amazon Exploration or Google Prospecting?”

Biotechnology and outsourced innovation will play key roles for the mining industry.

“In the next ten and even five-year timeframes, some mine sites will be largely unrecognisable, and in some cases, almost invisible. Industry leaders are setting their sights heavily toward AI, automation and sensing tech,” comments State of Play Chair and co-founder, Graeme Stanway.

Once those technologies are integrated and fuelled by renewable resources, it will shift the entire view of mining as an industry with a smaller carbon footprint, he says.

Orica former head of strategy Andrew Rosengren adds that technology companies are bringing evolved capabilities into a traditionally slow industries, encouraging all companies to move quicker.

The report also pointed out the need for transparency, which will be a major value driver in the next 15 years.

“Through technological advances we’re seeing social and environmental expectations at unprecedented highs. In order to continually attract talent and optimise results through innovation, mining must meet the growing need for transparency of its products,” continues Stanway.

“Telling the story of where minerals are from and how they are sourced to gain competitive advantage is one of the most untapped areas of value in mining. Through our discussions with industry leaders it’s clear this will become an area of focus in the coming years.”

Black Rock Mining CEO John de Vries asks what the ultimate mine would look like.  “Potentially an army of un-hackable robotic wheelie bins where the design efficiency is monumental, both in open pit and underground,” he notes.