BDO backs electric machines to take over underground mining

The mining industry is going through a rapid technological change.

BDO has revealed the major changes it predicts will shake up Australia’s mining sector by 2023, with electric equipment expected to make a major impact.

The report predicts that diesel machinery will be banned in new underground mines by 2023, while existing underground mines will phase diesel out, making significant headway towards electric operations.

BDO global head of natural resources Sherif Andrawes said electric mines would provide safer working conditions and increased access to funding.

“We now understand a lot more about the health and safety dangers for people exposed to nano-diesel particles. Electric mines will go a long way in reducing those risks for staff working underground,” Andrawes said.

“We predict companies that transition to electric mines will raise more capital as sustainability becomes a major consideration for investors. This is a shift we’re already seeing in the Australian market – if projects aren’t green, the investment won’t come.

“This will only compound as companies are required to disclose their emissions and climate risk – companies will face a cost not to transition.”

BDO also predicts that at least 10 Australian mining companies will use crowdsourcing or ‘hackathons’ to analyse data and find solutions to fast-track their exploration projects.

“BDO is predicting a trend that sees Australian miners using a global marketplace of data experts to solve their exploration roadblocks, where solutions can be found for a fraction of the cost with a much quicker turnaround,” Andrawes said.

The research expects that more Australian mining companies, particularly lithium producers, will offer in-country beneficiation plants, with the opportunity to add value in Australia.

As the industry and technology evolves, efforts will continue for miners to capture more value and better margins on the final product.

“In-country beneficiation plants has been an aspiration for Australia for some time now, but we have seen limited success due to technological, marketing and cost issue,” Andrawes said

“There’s opportunity to pursue this now as Australia’s position strengthens due to geopolitical uncertainties, an abundance of energy sources – including renewables – and the remoteness of our sites making it less feasible to transport low value ores over long distances.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is predicted to be used to negotiate and price contracts and humans would no longer control the deals in market.

Andrawes said while BDO predicted Australia would eventually move in this direction of AI controlling deals in market, little progress had been made so far.

“Slowly, we have seen AI introduced into the industry from exploration to mining and processing but the human element in price negotiation prevails in Australia and overseas markets for now,” Andrawes said.

Crowdsourced equity funding was also predicted to transform the growth path of junior explorers and tech companies will be the miners of Australia’s future.

“In Australia, there’s been slower take-up of crowdsourced equity funding than we expected, with one of the major issues being the platforms themselves coming to market slower than anticipated due to regulatory and technology issues,” Andrawes said.

“Another challenge in Australia has been finding companies willing to be the first-movers in this direction.

“Since the release of our last report, we have seen more technology companies being influential in mining either through entering into direct offtake agreements with mining companies or even investing in mining companies themselves.

”The key objective of tech companies is to secure the supply of rare but essential minerals without which their products can’t be made.”

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