BDO predicts robots will replace over half of miners by 2020

Image from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Copyright: Megan Ellison/James Cameron

A report from global advisory organisation BDO Australia has predicted a number of future trends in the mining industry, including the prediction that 50 per cent of miners will be replaced by robots by 2020.

Handily though, the report also claims that around half of the jobs to be replaced will result in retraining of employees for remote technology control, spurring a demand in upskilling and hopefully avoiding any Skynet-style pitfalls in the process.

An additional plus side of this robotisation is that it should also cut workplace accidents by 75 per cent. However, the report, which can be read in full here, does warn of the potential ramifications of mining’s increasing connectivity; it suggests that by 2020, there will have been at least five global PDoS (permanent denial of service) cyberattacks at mine sites initiated through connected devices.

“The value of harnessing technology is clear,” said Sherif Andrawes, national leader, national resources at BDO.

“Driverless technology increases mining output by 15 to 20 percent while cutting fuel and maintenance costs by 10 to 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively [and] it also improves mining safety exponentially.

“At the same time, though, these Internet-connected technologies open the mining industry up to new cyberattack vectors that they must hedge against through proper internal controls. If not, they risk seeing their entire operation crippled by a single attack.”

In addition to trends of automation and connectivity, the report also predicts that renewables will account for a quarter of global electricity generation — a big change from the 14.1 per cent figure cited by a BP report in 2016 — and that deep-sea mining will begin to take off commercially, citing the work done by Nautilus in Papua New Guinea.

This is in part due to a cutdown in coal use, which currently accounts for around half of global electricity production. China, the world’s largest coal energy market, recently introduced new environmental protection legislation to combat its famously high air pollution.