Since its origins, technology and mining have had a very close relationship, this is because their development has been complementary. Over the years, this relationship has been fed back and grown to the point of carrying out tasks that where previously typical of science fiction or were not thought of and currently improve efficiency and allow various actions to be carried out anonymously, such as: automating tasks previously done by human labor, collect data and very valuable information to which there was no access or the platforms or methods of data collection vital for the industry, in addition to highly specialized equipments in mining tasks, did not exist. This relationship to date has demonstrated the search for well-being among various factors. As it ensures safety, efficiency, environmental awareness, which has managed to reap various fruits, from saving lives to making mining business profitable that were previously unviable. Great achievements are expected in the future, in waste management, result profitable, safety, the possibility of automatic mines and the use of immersive technologies, among others.
That is why technology and innovation are currently part of what are considered factors of success in the industry, with overwhelming figures that we will see later which support the importance and weight of their role. Role that today is considered critical because it is a versatile tool that adapts to improve various areas from process efficiency, reducing costs and being at the forefront of personnel training within the mining industry.
In this article we want to show you how this relationship develops and what awaits you in the future, also shows the benefit in different areas that are directly related to operational performance in mining, while also knowing which are the companies that most exploit this resource and are currently positioned as success stories in the application of innovative technologies within the mining sector. We will also talk about figures that provide us with significant data on the panorama in recent years and we will comment on key points, such as the relationship between risk culture and technology, planning and efficient resource management.
There are several key factors for the success of the mining industry, they can range from government policies and permits, the cost of raw material, ease of extraction and human capital. Technology being a support for most of these factors,, influencing them from the production of specialized machinery, software for data collection or training, automation, digitization and electrification of some processes. What has shown that from each of these and as a set a great impact is obtained on a small, medium and large scale in the industry.
The constant technological development has allowed factors that at the time were decisive today to be a common factor, challenges continue to arise which the industry continually faces, that is why technological innovation must be readjusted by evaluating economic and environmental criteria, continuous improvements in safety and health of operators. However, there are five pillars that we would to empathize which we see how technology affirms itself as a key factor in industry:
To point out the key factors of the Mining Industry, we will talk about 2 in particular, such as productivity and human capital, specific áreas where technology has made gigantic advances, giving the possibility of simplifying tasks and making them safer.
To measure the impact of technology in the mining industry, it is essential to study the relationship it has had with productivity, because the technology offers improvements that allows exploring land that was previously believed inaccessible, its development also generates lower costs linked to price of fuels of forms of extraction, collec essential information for projects, as well as automate some tasks to stop exposing operators unnecessarily and keep the workforce highly trained for tasks to be carried out. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025 autonomous machines can work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and reach productivity records that could be reflected in up to USD 56 millions in value for the industry.
This field has benefited the most over the years, achieving improvements in infrastructure, equipment, operator safety, reduction of accidents, and a long list of benefits could be added but we will focus on security. According to a study, it is currently estimated around 1000 lives are saved per year and up to 44,000 accidents are avoided thanks to the use of risk prevention technologies. The same study proposes that the productivity and performance and human capital indices increased by 60% in countries such as Chile and Perú in the period from 1975 to 1990 thanks to the inclusion of new technologies. You can find more details of this information here.
More and more mining companies around the world are opting for the digital transformation of their company, automating their business processes, as well as their production processes, collecting valuable information for profitability and management of input. This is the case of the use of Business Intelligence in the Chilean mining company CODELCO, which are software in charge of streamlining data processing that served to detect value contribution of 200 million to 250 million dollars, which served to carry out projects such as “MinCo Project” and “Water supply and demand optimization project. Also managing to create a platform to upload its more than 1,400 corporate reports to which more than 800 users have access. We invite you to access the CODELCO report to learn more about the scope of technological innovation in this company during 2020.
One of the most notorious cases in relation to the automation of processes is the one carried out by the Rio Tinto mining company in Australia, which began in 2008 witch ACH, an automation system using innovative technologies for the loading and transport of minerals, which wich generated a huge positive impact on safety and error control within the operation and made it more profitable by driving its operating costs by 13%, which generated resistance to changes in raw material prices and made it one of the largest automated equipment mines in the world. Here you can find all the precise information of this report.
The list of successful cases of the use of technology is endless, in the same way he will share some random cases where we observe improvement in different sectors. This is the case of CanmetMINING, which developed modern automatic ventilation systems which manage waste in a gaseous state effectively and integintelly, which has meant up to 40% savings of energy and reduction of the carbon footprint. This is the case of MineLens in northern Australia, where thanks to autonomous transport technology, productivity in this sector increased by 20% and in general during the 2016 - 2018 period it increased by 2.8% thanks to increase in labor productivity linked to process training and operational tasks through digital content.
One of the fundamental points of any mining operation is safety, be it of the operators, the machinery, the information and the digitized content. Its correct operation avoids and manages harmful events that can destabilize or bankrupt a company. That is why millionaire budgets are allocated in order to avoid humans and material losses, as was the case Vale in Brucutu Brazil where a serious accident generated multiple human losses and approximately 10 billion dollars in losses for the company. In order for these cases to never be repeated, each year mining companies allocate a greater percentage of their budget to security measures, such as risk prevention software, technologies specialized in training operators for handling machinery, risks situations, evacuations or first aid.
For any company it is very important to have a strongly developed risk culture, that is where technology returns to take a leading role. Currently in this industry everything that may happen must be foreseen, that is, every possible scenario must be studied beforehand. These predictions are made possible by software technologies that collect data, simulate situations, and allow specialists to come into contact with the specific data in order to keep everything safe. An effective risk culture must be directly related to the use of innovative technologies capable of providing emergency insurance against human error and preventing harmful situations. It must also take operators understand the dimension of risk, which is why the simulation technologies and video tutorials have been very useful for the industry, setting records in the training of workers.
Currently it is essential that a mining company has a technology and digitization area, this is because technology is no longer an external tool to the mining site, technology has become part of the industry taxonomy. That is why over the years the percentage that mining companies dedicated to this area of digitization, exploration and technological improvements has increased considerably, and this is directly reflected in the increase in the productivity of their operators, the decrease in accidents, and growth in overall productivity. Let’s say that the formula is simple and straightforward, the higher growth or technical innovation, the higher the potential profits of a company and the lower the number of claimbs.
At Yoy we have opted for this industry because we believe that the future of the region is directly related to this work because, given the need for technological solutions that have a high level of specialization, we have developed virtual reality and augmented reality simulators in order to offer operators the guidance and information they need to carry out their job duties without the need to be physically present in a mine or operating a machine.
CAEX Simulator: Specialized in training truck operators. We have developed the software and hardware for this simulator based on the Komatsu 930.
Underground Mine Virtual Tour: Tour in an underground mine using virtual reality, with all its components and information about them.
School of Risks: Simulator that teaches you to review and take into account all the details that influence the safety of the tasks to be carried out within the industrial environment.
Technological innovation could be considered as a latent need within the mining industry and it is the responsibility of the various agents to make this possible, both governments guaranteeing the profitability of mining companies that must commit and put more resources at the service of this area, contractors, developers, operators, etc. Feeding and nurturing these sectors dedicated to research and technological development is to invest in methods for mining companies to generate greater profits and therefore better benefits for all agents part for this process. There is still much to investigate and create, we are at a crucial moment where we must act with cunning and intelligence knowing thow to delegate resources for a better use of them in the future.