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 showcase how innovative professionals are shaping the resources sector.
Why digital transformation remains the industry’s nemesis
A new eBook from AusIMM partner Metallurgical Systems breaks these industry challenges down into four key areas and shares why data is the not-so-secret ingredient in solving them.
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. Check out the list below.
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.
Mining more efficiently using drone technology
Check out this short video from Emesent, featuring their drone-based Hovermap technology in use at the OZ Minerals Carrapateena copper mine.
Lithium and Battery Metals
There is substantial scope for the Australian sector to innovate and move up the value chain for these commodities, and the expertise of resources professionals must be harnessed to realise these opportunities.
Increasing the sustainability of organic waste in mining
In 2020, AusIMM collaborated with Green Eco Technologies to showcase waste-reduction opportunities for the conversion and re-purposing of putrescible organic waste.