aerial view of trucks at mining site

As one of the world’s top producers of mined resources and commodities, Australia is unsurprisingly leading the way in transforming the mining industry by adopting new technology. Mining is already the largest sector by share in the country’s GDP. With the ongoing technology-enabled transformation, there’s no telling how far up the spike will be for the industry in the next few years.

A recent survey by GlobalData revealed that Australia-based mines rank the highest among 130+ mines worldwide in technology penetration. Still, many small and mid-size mining companies founded not long before the revolution commenced are struggling to adapt. These companies are either reluctant to ditch assets with several years left in their useful lives or deem the transformation fiscally risky.

Then again, advancements in mining technology are continuing to gain traction, and failure to adapt may result in mining companies being left behind. For instance, those that use mining management software have a better chance of outpacing those that refuse to forgo traditional mining site management methods since this latest technology is designed to simplify and optimise processes. As with any investment, scrapping old technology to give way for a new one may involve set-up costs, but it guarantees a higher return, greater operational productivity and positions a mining company for long-term growth.

Hanging on to management-centric improvements

For some time, mining companies relied on lean mining management. Making incremental changes to current operating systems to smooth out site production flaws helps increase yield and output more effectively than abruptly revising existing policies and guidelines. Mining companies usually pair this approach with lean operation, which is about systematically and tactically using existing resources to produce more output with less structural change.

Of course, approaches like these which directly affect a mining company’s operation should be based on statistical data, not on assumptions and selective observations. Also, since many solutions may lead to a positive outcome, statistical information helps narrow the choices to the most cost-efficient ones. This improvement approach is known as Six Sigma, and many mining companies adopt it along with lean management and operation.

Integrating new technologies into mining management operations

However, a management-centric approach to mining project management can only do so much to increase bottom-line mining productivity. Mining companies know that to break operational barriers, they must upgrade their machinery and processes. The only way to achieve that is to incorporate the latest technologies into their existing systems. In case of compatibility issues, modifications to these systems are necessary to allow full integration. Here are some of the latest technologies currently taking the mining industry by storm.

1. Automation

Did you know that today’s mining industry is less productive than it was several decades ago? It may sound counterintuitive, but it all makes sense if you consider the ongoing shortage of skilled labour. With fewer people in the mine, less work is achieved, and the risk of downtime when accidents happen is higher. Mining companies address this problem by automating mining site operations.

Using robotic technology in the form of semi-autonomous equipment and vehicles for mine site operations increases productivity by augmenting the workforce. It also significantly increases site safety as work in high-risk areas can continue without deploying labourers. Mining companies can also automate processes, such as site mapping, inventory measurement, and asset management, using remote-operated drones.

2. Digitalisation

While most mining operations occur at the mine site, many aspects of the mining business are managed remotely. These include tests in laboratories not suitable to be built on-site. Digitalisation expedites information sharing, correspondence, and data analysis within a mining project. In addition, many established mining companies employ dedicated mining software, such as PlanRadar, to streamline data storage and management further.

Unlike regular communication platforms, PlanRadar has multiple other capabilities, including document management, project reports, and analyses. It is essentially project management software. Mining companies can use it to track progress, organise activities, and even execute commands remotely. With all mine site data accessible in one place, managers and mining professionals can perform tasks, tackle problems, and make educated decisions more efficiently. Find out how PlanRadar can help you grow your mining company here.

3. Artificial intelligence

It’s crucial to distinguish automation and digitalisation from artificial intelligence (AI) applications. While AI is powered by digital technology and utilised in robotics and automation, it presents a new set of perks to mining operations. AI enables machines to identify patterns and program themselves to consider those patterns in future actions.

For instance, by repetitively performing a specific action via external control, AI programs the machine to automatically perform the same action in the future when the same conditions are met without human intervention. In other words, it gives the machine artificial intelligence, hence the name. This is one of the most significant breakthroughs in mining as it deals with the risk of human error, particularly in critical processes.

In summary

Adopting new technologies into your mining operations takes more than adding infrastructure and modifying facilities. Remember that most of these technologies will likely add to or even replace old equipment, which also means changing operational guidelines and safety protocols. Depending on the required skills to operate new machines, your labourers and skilled workers might need to undergo special training and obtain a separate license. In some cases, a complete team restructuring may be necessary to ensure the best outcomes company-wide.

Aspects of your company culture can be positively impacted by this as well. For instance, coming on board with PlanRadar may help to increase communication and engagement among executives, management, front-line teams and safety personnel. Adopting a digital mining management platform can open up closed doors within your organisation, promoting transparency and inclusivity and establishing a more integrated culture of trust.

Learn more about PlanRadar now and get started before your competition does. Start your 30-day free PlanRadar trial!