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11 July 2019

The Latest Trends in Mining Technology

How can new technology change how we see mining?

The latest technology trends in mining indicate a compelling industry shift towards sustainability. Digital technology works harder than ever to deliver a truly modern, safe, and productive mine that addresses the increased demand for mined materials, while at the same time exceeding customer expectations and global sustainability initiatives.

Here are some of the mining industry’s latest technological innovations:

1. Spatial data visualisation

Mining is experiencing an exciting shift, thanks to spatial (or geospatial) data. Spatial data is becoming more detailed and clearer than ever:

  • Three-dimensional (3D) Modelling creates a viewable, life-like impression with depth perception that allows the human brain to understand and relate to complex interrelated issues. 3D modelling supports firms by reimagining the mine more efficiently.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) is an artificially-created software environment that uses real-life data. The virtual environment immerses people into a user-created 3-D environment. VR presents an enhanced impression to help miners experience what it’s like working in a mine or planning a new mine without being out in the field.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) overlays a digital visualization onto a real-world environment. AR accomplishes this by enhancing the user’s visual field with computer-generated inputs such as sound, video, applications, and graphics. Miners use augmented reality to train using virtual simulators, which also helps the industry reduce equipment maintenance costs.

By using new technology like spatial data effectively, the mining industry gains insights into mine systems at a reduced cost and impact on the environment. The mining industry is steadily moving toward a future where it’s possible to virtually construct and deconstruct buildings, plants, mines, and all associated infrastructure before even breaking ground to create a truly intelligent mine.

2. Geographic information systems

Geographic information systems (GIS) are an integral tool that allows a deeper look at how geographic relationships influence the world around us. With the help of GIS, miners are able to solve real-life issues where location and accessibility are critical.

Geospatial data represents an object’s location, size, and shape. By visualising this kind of data, miners gain more insight into the represented system or mine environment. GIS is used to gain insight into the following:

  • Mineral exploration
  • Geochemical and hydrology data
  • Report generation
  • Facility and tailings management
  • Sustainability and regulatory compliance

When mining today, geospatial data software allows us to train mine managers and employees in new ways, and improve long-term understanding of mining with virtual interpretations of real-life environments.

Modern mining technology used by Anglo American.

3. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) now leads the decision-making at insight-driven firms. They use smart data and machine learning to improve operational efficiency, mine safety, and production workflow. Implementing artificial intelligence technology generates day-to-day data in half the time than what has been used previously in the field.

The mining industry evolves rapidly, so machine learning and AI impact the way mines today make choices for the future. Here are some ways the latest technology in artificial intelligence impacts the working mine:

  • Mineral processing and exploration: Companies can find minerals more easily by using high-performance AI technology.
  • Autonomous vehicles and drillers: For more than eight years, firms across the globe have used autonomous vehicles in their pit-to-pit operations. Self-driving trucks can easily navigate through narrow tunnels with AI. Now, drilling systems are also simplified with a single operator that controls several drill rigs at once.

This is just another step towards optimal industry efficiency. As the mining industry attempts to reduce costs and lessen its environmental impact, using mining equipment like AI helps to ensure safety and reliability for both miners and the land that mines use.

Modern mining technology used by Anglo American.

4. Automated drones

In recent years, drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have started to make headway across the mining industry. UAS now produce the same results as a helicopter at a lower cost. Drones, when set to perform operational tasks, improve the industry by providing the following services:

  • Safety and surveillance in hazardous areas
  • Asset management
  • Time-lapse photography
  • Measuring stockpile inventory
  • Infrastructure upkeep and inspection
  • Site mapping

Why we use the latest technology in our mines

At Anglo American, we’ve invested a lot of time assessing how innovation can help our industry address its challenges. Through FutureSmart MiningTM, we draw on the expertise of diverse stakeholders, including our employees, partners in academia and civil society, and peers in the mining and parallel industries. Our objective: to drive toward a more sustainable approach to mining by using the latest mining equipment and cutting-edge mining software.

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