2020 Predictions In Mining Technology

As mining companies look to increase safety through automation and analytics, lack of preparedness can leave them vulnerable to new cybersecurity threats

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By Nader Elm, CEO

2020 will be an inflection year for the mining industry’s adoption of technology. More companies are starting to see the value in their early technology investments and the undeniable impact it’s having on operations and business growth. The race is on to see who will be the safest, smartest, and fastest player in the mining sector, and lead the way into the next generation of productivity and success for this industry.

From drones to blockchain and beyond, here are 6 predictions for technologies taking off with mining companies this year.

1. Autonomy adoption accelerates

aerial robotic automation
Building a flight plan with the ExynView tablet

AI-based systems, including ground and aerial robots, will become increasingly autonomous, untethered, and capable of achieving more with less human intervention. This will enable mining companies to keep human miners out of harm’s way and focused on higher-value tasks. The impact of advanced autonomy will be especially dramatic for underground mining operations, as we’ll be able to send self-piloted drones to gather critical data and mapping information while keeping human surveyors safely at the surface.

2. More sophisticated sensor tech

smart sensors
Smarter sensors make for a smarter robot

The tech powering increased automation and advanced data collection in mining will, itself, evolve in performance and effectiveness. Sensors will continue to get smaller, lighter, faster, and better, allowing autonomous equipment to explore and navigate more difficult-to-reach environments. We’ll also start to see entirely new breeds of sensors that can enable novel types of data collection — for instance, detecting mineral ores, grades, and estimating actual yield.

3. Analytics advance exponentially

LiDAR stope analytics
View of Exyn aerial robot capturing a stope map

With sensor tech continuing to progress, mining companies will be able to gather greater and more precise data than ever before, and the demand for real-time and predictive analytics will be unprecedented. This will drive increased demand for a data-savvy workforce, including engineers, software developers, and data scientists. Now that we’re able to capture detailed data, the competitive edge for mining companies will be on how to best leverage it.

4. Blockchain will bolster compliance

blockchain network
The blockchain ledger promises transparent, verifiable information

The next generation of mining must account for the new generation of ethically and sustainable-minded consumers. Blockchain can deliver verifiable information about how mined materials are sourced, refined, transported, and sold, and help companies fulfill their compliance obligations. While this application is very early stages, we predict we’ll begin to see examples of blockchain integrations in the industry by some of the most forward-thinking companies.

5. Cybersecurity concerns abound

cybersecurity in mining
As more mines go digital, organizations must bolster facilities and data against potential cyber-attacks

As operational processes will continue to be digitized, many mining companies will continue to revamp their legacy systems and update their approach to enterprise resource planning. As with any company moving to the cloud, miners will need to buckle down and ensure their cybersecurity strategy is up to snuff. The best programs will adopt a shift-left mindset and a proactive approach to protecting facilities and critical data against potential cyber-attacks.

6. Drones will do more

autonomous aerial mine robot
Aerial robots with real-time mapping can keep miners working remotely and safely

Aerial robots will be increasingly autonomous, untethered, and capable of achieving more with less human intervention. Rather than being physically accompanied and supervised by a human miner, mining drones will be completely untethered and commanded 100% remotely from the surface. This will enable us to gather the same live-streamed data and critical mapping information without putting human lives underground and at risk. Drones will also play an integral part in creating a real-time digital twin of underground operations.

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