The mining industry can sometimes be seen as slow to innovate compared to the pace of innovation in other industries. That does not mean there are zero innovations in the open cut ore mining business. We have compiled a list of some of the exciting new innovations that have hit or are about to hit, the open cut ore mining industry. From this list, it’s clear that it’s an exciting time to be in mining.
Autonomous trucks are already used on many mine sites, particularly in Western Australia, in order to haul materials from the pit to processing. The new technology has meant reduced costs in driver wages and increased safety on mining sites, with no room for human error. This is also one innovation that doesn’t just benefit the mining industry. Many other industries are now looking to implement this technology or are pushing for further innovations to make the autonomous trucks fit their needs. The transport industry is particularly excited about this innovation and we can expect to see a lot more autonomous trucks around in the future.
Easily one of the most important areas for innovation, there have been great advances in safety in the mining industry. One notable invention is the award-winning, “Fit for purpose” underground boot, which provides better ankle support and sole stability, as well as increased comfort and waterproofing. The Smart Cap has also hit the market – this technology aims to combat fatigue in the wearer by using sensors to monitor signs of fatigue and alertness.
Ore processing is one area of mining that has not changed much since the mining industry first began. Rio Tinto is working to change that. Their patented Copper NuWave, if successful, will be a considerable improvement on traditional ore processing techniques. The process will result in maximised mineral recovery, while at the same time, producing far less waste. The Copper NuWave™ will also help to reduce energy and water consumption during the process. It’s currently still in testing at the Kennecott copper mine in Utah, but will hopefully be on the market soon.
With rising pressure to combat climate change on mining companies from governments and activists around the world, it’s no surprise that there’s been a push to increase the use of alternative energy sources. Many mining companies are now beginning to incorporate alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, into their operations. Global mining giants, Glencore stated in their 2017 sustainability report that 19% of their energy is obtained from renewable sources, an impressive statistic and one which will only grow in the coming years. Alternative energy usage is not just environmentally responsible, it’s a great way to cut costs and improve public perception of mining companies.
Autonomous Mine Site Infrastructure
This innovation might still be a fairway off, but Rio Tinto is working hard to develop the technology. The ultimate goal is to have all three aspects of mining: hauling, drilling and long-distance rail systems, completely automated and integrated. This will dramatically cut costs and increase productivity. The technology would allow all three operations to be controlled from one central location.