Mining technology and innovation
Discover the latest in clever thinking
Mining industry professionals have always been known for being problem-solvers, finding safer and more efficient ways to mine and process minerals.
Discover the latest in clever thinking as we share some thought-provoking insights and latest innovations from mining. Explore new approaches to food waste management in mining, learn more about how technology is helping solve big mining challenges, and gain an in-depth understanding of how innovative thinking is shaping the resources sector.
Confronting the environmental impacts of organic waste through new technology
AusIMM is collaborating with Green Eco Technologies to showcase waste-reduction opportunities for the conversion and re-purposing of putrescible organic waste. This article looks at Green Eco Technologies’ WasteMaster system, the technology behind it, and the benefits of reducing food waste as the mining industry continues to find ways to increase site sustainability.
Food waste generated by mining operations presents significant disposal challenges, with transportation to landfill sites and the disposal itself being both costly with damaging environmental impacts.
Of the 10 key guidance principles defined by the International Council on Mining and Metals, five, six, seven and eight relate to health and safety, environmental performance, conservation of biodiversity and responsible production respectively. All of these have relevance for mining companies and their management of waste.
In common with many sectors employing large workforces, the responsible disposal of waste, including organic waste, is a major consideration for the industry. Sustainability, and particularly the mitigation of any negative impacts on the environment, are key priorities for mining companies.
A major consideration for any method used to deal with waste is its potential or consequential environmental impact. No or Low Emissions Technologies (LETs) are a responsible way forward to slow or preferably stop the damaging environmental impacts of waste.
With the health and safety of employees and visitors to sites of prime importance, multiple non- operational vehicle movements (including waste-disposal vehicles) can represent unnecessary hazards. Moreover, degrading or rotting food waste stored on site, often in high temperatures while awaiting collection, must also be carefully handled to ensure there is no risk of contamination. Remotely-operated or monitored technology can also minimise the health and safety risks associated with direct machine operation on site.
In addition to the health and safety considerations, processing and recycling waste on site is a practical way to reduce the amount of food waste generated by a mining operation, and can also both prevent the generation of methane from the decomposition of food waste in landfill and reduce the carbon footprint from transporting this waste to and from mining sites.
A technology that combines on-site processing with the re-purposing of food waste is Green Eco Technology’s WasteMaster system. Harnessing Australian technology, the WasteMaster has been developed to tackle the health and safety and emissions challenges of food waste disposal.
Converting food waste on site, the WasteMaster’s proprietary technology accelerates the decomposition of food and organic waste without water or any additives. Food waste is oxidised through ionisation, releasing water as vapour and transforming the waste during a short processing cycle into a compost-like, storable, pathogen-free residual material.
This high-calorific value residue can be re-purposed as green energy through anaerobic digestion and is presently being assessed by testing facilities around the world for other purposes such as soil enhancement.
The system’s operation is monitored and optimised remotely via a diagnostic system, which also accurately measures the amount of waste processed for sustainability reporting purposes.
The WasteMaster technology has been installed and tested extensively at high-volume catering sites including restaurants, hotels, and hospitals. A large hotel with multiple restaurants has been using the system for four years, reducing its environmental footprint through the conversion of food waste on site, sending the remaining residual material for the generation of green energy and implementing waste reduction programs based on the accurate waste data provided by the remote diagnostic system.
Greatly reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfill is an important way mining companies can continue to show their commitment to a sustainable future. By adopting technology that will minimise the impact of organic waste, the mining industry can both improve sustainability and help to support the future preservation of our planet.
Want to know more? Read the full article on the AusIMM Bulletin website
Ten mining challenges technology could solve
As we move further into the 21st century, our sector is making great gains in automation and digitalisation. However, there are still critical challenges facing our industry that, for the most part, will be solved by innovative professionals and technology. Richard Price MAusIMM explored some of these challenges – and their potential solutions – in a recent AusIMM Bulletin article.
1. The liquefaction of tailings
Addressing this challenge will involve an as-yet undiscovered technological solution, with a number of players already putting their hands up to assist.
2. Communicating to ever-deeper mines
Two-way communication, particularly with personnel (as opposed to vehicles), remains a challenge for the thousands of workers who travel several kilometres into the earth in increasingly deep mines.
3. Extracting minerals from lower grades
Technology will drive such cut-off grades even lower, by lowering exploration and exploitation costs. Increased plant automation and data analytics are already being applied to mineral processing and starting to achieve positive results.
4. Small footprint mining
Technology will continue to automate machinery, which will drive down onsite operational personnel required. The reduction in onsite operational personnel requirement will then reduce the environmental footprint that the mining (not necessarily exploration) industry currently has.
5. The ‘home-away-from-home’ challenge
The promotion and protection of good mental health for fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers is beginning to be addressed. One possible future could involve holographic imagery and virtual or augmented reality – imagine being able to sit down to dinner with your loved one to eat the same meal, even though you are thousands of kilometres away!
6. Discovering orebodies undercover
It is well-known that the Western Mining Corporation took around six years to discover the massive Olympic Dam orebody, which was covered under some 300 metres of barren material. The tools available to geologists will only get better as computers become more powerful and more data is harnessed in exploration.
7. Underground coal mining and coal workers pneumoconiosis
Coal dust and methane explosions still provide real and dangerous risks to underground coal mine workers, especially following the resurfacing of coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) in Queensland. While the issue is complex and requires input from many professions and experts, the technology that solves these insidious issues will save lives.
8. Water management
Water – both supply and usage – is a big societal issue and it’s one that presents an incredible opportunity for savvy mine operators and innovators. Reducing a site’s overall water usage through various technologies, including recycling and reuse following sequestration, could be one of the major ways a company could gain a significant competitive advantage.
9. Finding good people
The search for the best professionals remains an ongoing challenge for the mining industry, especially during boom times when skills are in demand. Sophisticated social networking and recruitment tools are likely to assist our industry finding the best people – even if their current role is outside the sector.
10. Social licence to operate
As resources professionals, we all understand the need for social license to operate. In the future, we are likely to be able to use virtual reality to visually inspect reclaimed lands, or roving autonomous drone technology with onboard cameras to do that same activity – thereby making rehabilitation easier and demonstrating to communities our industry’s commitment to successful rehabilitation.
Thought Leadership Series 2019: celebrating innovative thinking
The Series featured keynote presentations from Australia’s Chief Scientists and panels exploring how science, technology and innovative thinking is shaping the future of the mining industry.
Download our summary report that provides an overview of the key themes from the Series, before looking in more detail at each of the four topics covered by speakers at each event.
Other technology and innovation recommended reading
Space robotics company targets mining exploration in Australia
A Canadian space robotics company that relocated to South Australia this year has completed the first trial of its autonomous atmospheric satellites ahead of its first commercial launch in 2020.
Tailings dam monitoring solution wins innovation award
The technology allows mining companies to remotely monitor tailings dams in real time, to support independent analysis from auditors to guide critical decision making.
Adapt and perish: is the mining industry ready for the blockchain revolution?
Blockchain has the potential to transform contemporary businesses and entire societies. But is the resources industry ready to adopt the technology, or does it remain a buzzword with an unproven business case for mining?
The future of innovation in mining
We have no idea what new challenges the future holds, but we do know the resources sector needs to be prepared for innovation. This article explores how the world is changed, and how miners can harness new technologies.