What is next for key technology investments in the mining industry?

A constant success factor throughout the history of mining has been the adoption of new technologies.

One issue that has made this more of a necessity is the transition mining companies must now undertake which are in the face of low commodity prices, and the move away from capital expenditure towards efficiency.

The costs of failing to do so will be potentially steep for miners. However, improvements in technology can change the way companies view mineral deposits, improve safety across operations and aid in managing costs.

Timetric data from over 630 mines across six regions, highlights a range of investment priorities in different areas of technology.

These regions include North America, Latin America, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the former Soviet Union. Mining companies are planning investments into areas that cover mine management software and systems, and advancements in vehicle-related technologies.

It is interesting to note that the investment intentions of mines differ from region to region.

The results in Figure 1 show the top technology categories for each region and indicates which areas have the highest number of planned investments.

The majority of these investments come from mining operations throughout Africa, specifically into fatigue management technologies, and shows a strong focus on employee/operator safety and wellbeing.

The North American industry is looking to make improvements in collision avoidance and proximity detection technologies – another safety directed technology – but will also improve equipment utilisation.

Operations throughout Asia are looking to invest in high level mine-management software, namely for scheduling and optimisation purposes.

The European region, which also includes the former Soviet Union, is investing in technologies to handle fleet management and vehicle monitoring, showing a strong inclination towards improving equipment utilisation.

Improvements in remote control and machine automation technologies are at the top of the list for the Latin American region.

Technologies can greatly aid in improving utilisation and increase safety for operators.

The data also shows that mines in Australia have the lowest rate of planned investments, with the highest number of these investments going towards environmental monitoring and emissions management tools.

Many factors influence the investments mining companies make towards technology. These include the history of the industry in the region, the age of the equipment used, mine life, environmental constraints, and factors regarding the workforce of the industry, amongst others.

This is supported by results that show different mining industries around the world are making investments into different types of technology.

 

*Nez Guevara is a senior mining analyst at Trimetric.