The prospect of digital mining brings with it a swathe of questions, and it’s not just about achieving the desires of increased productivity and reduced downtime.
There’s a larger query facing Australian mining and it’s quite the noteworthy catch-22.
While Australian mining companies have starry eyes at the prospect of increased automation and electrification, it’s critical to consider the sustainability of any technological venture.
As the appetite for resources continues to climb in an ever-advancing world, AspenTech Metals and Mining vice president and general manager Jeannette McGill said the sector has plenty to consider.
“The demand for these resources is going nowhere,” McGill said.
“The demand for battery metals is going to be up 500 per cent by 2050. So that really underpins, together with the batteries, the electric vehicles, together with the infrastructure that’s required for modernisation of businesses, cities, countries as well as the need for connectivity in electronics.
“All of those things are going to continually underpin a demand for metals.”
A 2020 report from the World Bank indicated battery metals such as cobalt, lithium and graphite will have to increase by 500 per cent by 2050 to cater for the growing demand for clean energy technologies.
These are the critical resources fuelling the digitalised world.
But as the mining sector reacts to this demand, there’s critical considerations they must contemplate – ones which underpin the very concept of digital mining.
“For the global metals and mining sector, it’s about being able to provide and service the demand for metals, but the dual challenge comes about – how do we do this in a highly-sustainable remit which takes into account the challenge of being able to have a license to operate in and around the geographies,” McGill said.
“That, therefore, is the big driver for the digital mine, because with the digital mine, the opportunity to be able to be far better around one’s consumption of inputs and resources – things like water, things like energy, things like power.
“It also means that the human capital will be different in terms of who actually works on these mines and so, really at the end of the day, the digital mine of the future is really allowing the world to perform a whole lot more sustainably around this dual challenge.”