5 hot mining technology trends to watch right now

Will the pace of technology ever slow? Certainly not in the mining industry

Mining’s key challenges in a world geared towards sustainability are manifold, and technology is here to help. Some of the biggest trends are focussed on improving the industry’s environmental impact, as well as reducing risk to workers, and in some cases full automation.

Digitalisation is also the watchword. A series of digital solutions are in development to bring mining fully into the tech-led 21st-century.

Here are five trends and technologies to watch out for in Russian and global mining.

5 big trends in mining tech

Green mining technology

Many mining companies are experimenting with greener venting technology to lessen their environmental impact

With investors such as The Netherland’s ING making sustainability a key factor in their final Russian investment decisions, the onus is on miners to take a sustainable approach to mining.

Some of the largest Russian companies, such as Polymetal and Severstal, are committed to a more environmentally friendly approach. NorNickel has announced it will be spending $2.5bn on environmental clean-up programmes, stating it would slash its sulphur dioxide emissions by 75% by 2023.

A variety of technological solutions are either available now or in development helping mineral extractors create a greener world.

For instance, many mines around the world are turning to renewable energy, such as installing on-site solar panels, to generate clean power to fuel their operations. This inevitably cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane capturing technology also exists to limit output of this ultra-harmful substance which is a by-product of many mining processes. Coal mining in particular generates vast quantities of methane.

One solution designed by CONSOL Energy Inc. pulls gas out of mines with a powerful fan, then passes it through a heated ceramic, which then oxidises the gas, turning it into CO2 and water vapour.

However, CO2 is also a major cause of global warming, so miners are also experimenting with carbon storage tech to limit its output. Mines in Australia, for instance, have reported storing more than 60,000 tons of the gas at each operation where this tech has been used.

Other areas of green mining tech include improvements in water reclamation and discharge. Vacuum evaporation and crystallisation are two common practices that help mines reach net zero water status.

Digital geological modelling tech

Digital tech is lessening the need for invasive exploration in mine assessment

It goes without saying that a massive part of mining involves digging deep into the Earth – particularly in the exploration phase. To reduce the amount of pre-production work required, mining firms are turning to tech suppliers for digital surveying and exploration solutions.

Where once mining offices were covered in physical maps of different scales, now it’s banks of computers, relying on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to compile data and info.

Smart info systems like MapInfo and ArcGIS provide a wide data spectrum of geological, geochemical and geophysical info. This allows miners to analyse in-depth exploration areas before any physical work needs to be done.

GPS and LIDAR systems are also playing their part. LIDAR (Light Direction and Ranging), alongside ALTM (Airborne Laser Terrain Mapper) surveys provide a bird’s eye view of exploration areas and faults too, often with altimetric precisions with up to 5cm accuracy. Again, this info is fed to software, which affords assessors a chance to get deep geological insights prior to digging, cutting, and blasting.

Smart mines & AI

Mines are getting increasingly smart with the IoT and greater automation

The Internet of Things, general connectivity of devices and machinery for improved efficiency and communications, is changing how mines operate.

Adoption of smart analytical sensors and software throughout mines, be they above ground or sub surface, allows for real time analysis of aspects like ore collection volumes, worker hours, precipitation levels and other work and health & safety aspects.

Control systems can also allow for more efficient use, such as monitoring the status of equipment and machinery to check for maintenance and repair issues. However, as technology gets smarter, the future of mining is likely to be 100% automated.

Through smart communication between man and machine, AI will be able to remove the human element from the most hazardous aspects of mining. Programmable machines, easily monitored from a central control hub, will provide cost-effective ways of improved mineral identification, extraction and processing.

Sweden’s Sandvik and MiningWorld Russia exhibitors Komatsu are at the forefront of this AI revolution. Sandvik, for example, as been supplying the tech driving the world’s first fully automated mine, Syama in Mali, Africa, providing complete solutions from drill point to ore extraction, loading, and transportation.

Komatsu, on the other hand, has been offering its integrated Smart Solutions to mines worldwide, helping them boost productivity while reducing danger for the human workforce.

The future of mining is smart.

Virtual reality

Virtual and augmented reality is improving mining training and development worldwide

VR is not just for entertainment. It has many real-world applications in the mining and mineral extraction sphere.

Firstly, there is creating a virtual mine environment. Using headsets, users are immersed in a digitally realised world, using real-life data, this presents an impression of a mine’s working conditions. This is a great asset, as it lets miners to get a feel for the mine itself before ever stepping foot in it.

This can also help when planning a new mine, so the actual establishment of the mine has already been pre-planned and visualised before workers pick up tools.

Companies like Canadian firm LlamaZoo are providing the most up-to-date VR mining solutions.

Similar to VR, augmented reality is also proving a useful planning tool. It does so by overlaying digital visuals onto real-world environments. A mixture of sound, video, apps and graphics are used here. In the mining sector, augmented reality is used for training simulations, mineral analysis, and mine planning.

Blockchain in mining

The supply chain across the mining industry is being enhanced by blockchain tech

The world’s hottest information sharing topic, blockchain is also ready to make an impact on global mining.

As global and Russian output modestly grows, there’s a big emphasis on improving efficiency at all aspects of the mining sector. Supply chains must become smarter, smoother, and transparent. Enter blockchain.

The above aspects are what blockchain tech was designed for. It’s essentially multi-point ledger and communication technology.

Benefits for mining firms include improved supply chain monitoring, sustainability compliance, trackability and transparency. All stakeholders involved across the chain are able to communicate and see information shared between one another.

MiningWorld Russia: showcasing the future of mining and mineral extraction technology

MiningWorld Russia is number one mining and mineral extraction technology and machinery exhibition in Russia.

Nearly 6,000 industry professionals attend each show to find the latest products and solutions on the market – and their manufactures – in one place.

The event is your opportunity to meet new customers and grow your sales in one of the world’s foremost mining markets.

To take part, book your stand today.

Need more info? Please contact our team.