Even an industry as old as the mining industry depends on innovation to increase productivity, profitability and value to shareholders and stakeholders. Today, along with improving the bottom line, mining companies are expected to minimize their environmental impact and protect the health and safety of workers and nearby communities. Mining minerals or fossil fuels is hard and dirty business, and mining companies are always challenged to reduce the impact of their presence while delivering product to market at competitive prices. And, the industry faces an increasingly challenging landscape, as old mines dry up and newer sites are harder to find and exploit, lack of access to water is a growing global problem, and they face serious labor shortages in the current economy. Mining companies look to technology and other breakthrough ideas for answers.
Mining Industry Trends to Watch
Deloitte, a global tax, accounting and professional services firm, issues an annual Tracking the Trends report on the mining industry. Here are some of the mining industry trends it identified in its 2019 report:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Analytics – data is the goldmine of the digital age, and mining companies are coming up the curve to automate, collect and use the massive data they collect to enhance their outcomes. To participate fully in today’s marketplace, firms must link into automated supply chain systems, known as the digital supply network (DSN), that cross company boundaries and speed transactions faster than traditional systems of the past. AI improves competitiveness, lowers costs and reduces risk, making and executing decisions and actions more effectively and efficiently than humans.
- Water and Energy Conservation – mining has long been one of the world’s most water and energy-intensive industries. Mining companies are finding solutions to run operations with less water available, and leave the water they do use less polluted. And as renewable energy becomes cheaper and more available, mining companies are well positioned to take advantage of onsite energy generation and convert from fossil fuel to, for example, solar and wind sources in the field. They are replacing old machines with new ones that reduce energy use 15-20%, with even more energy savings when entire new mines are involved.
- Invest in Capital Projects – a steep drop in commodity prices caused mining companies to stop investing in equipment and new mines. Capital investment was down by two thirds in 2017. In order to be competitive and ready to meet the growing global need for minerals and fossil fuels, mining companies must plan to make increased strategic capital investments going forward.
- Adapting to the Changing Workplace – automation, analytics and changing workforce demographics have brought massive change to the skillset and mindset of today’s mining industry workers. Like many in the current environment, the industry faces a skilled labor shortage, and is facing the challenge of investing for the long term in employee recruitment, development and retention.
- Social Responsibility – in most markets today there is an expectation that large firms engaged in for-profit operations will respect the wishes of the local communities, contributing back to their well-being and preserving the health of their environment. Making this kind of transition to social value rather than purely monetary value is not easy, but it is more and more urgent today as mining and people find themselves sharing the land in closer proximity than ever before.
New Mining Technologies Changing the Mining Industry
Among the innovations that are changing the way mining works are technological inventions that provide more and better information, or that take on repetitive or dangerous tasks. Collectively these aids are improving performance and increasing profitability. Here are some of the new tools improving mining operations today:
- Automation is quickly revolutionizing mining. “Intelligent mines” can do most of the hard and dangerous underground work with driverless trucks, trains and robots. Underground excavators have made hard rock mines easier to exploit, and make old methods, like blasting and drilling, less common.
- Drones conduct aerial surveys for many industries and are a perfect addition to the toolbox for mining operations, from exploration phase to day to day operations, providing quick easy visibility to any spot on the site visible from the air or even in underground tunnels. Drones can be first responders to check for dangerous conditions, damaged equipment or other situations that might endanger people.
- 3D printing and digital twinning (making identical replacement parts) reduce maintenance down time due to wait for spare machinery parts by recreating them on site with 3d printing technology.
- Electric vehicles are smart investments for underground mining equipment, such as lithium battery-based Cat’s Underground Electric LHD, and anywhere that the company operates to reduce mining’s notoriously dirty fossil fuel footprint of the past while improving mine air quality and safety.
- X-ray diffraction software with enhanced data collection allows improved visual evidence of property densities to identify the nature of materials underground. This capability saves time and money in the mining exploration phase in particular, providing for faster, better site selection decisions.
- Wearable technology can accompany miners as they work, and pick up indicators such as carbon monoxide levels or other dangerous gases, worker physical status, such as fatigue that can affect safety, GPS location and more.
Tension Mining Fabric Buildings Lower Cost and Improve Efficiency
When it comes to equipment and setting up the project site, mining needs fast, efficient and practical solutions that help move the project forward to get the product delivered to market. Mining fabric buildings are the solution for flexible, fast and practical temporary mining buildings wherever project building space is needed for activities such as maintenance and assembly activities, storage, personnel or other uses. These modular prefab structures can usually be delivered and installed within weeks of order placement. Durable and highly weather-resistant, the structure is supported by a high-strength, lightweight, extruded aluminum frame covered by a tensioned, heavy-duty specially formulated PVC fabric cover that creates a building as strong as a traditional structure, able to shed precipitation and withstand strong winds.
The buildings come in a variety of sizes and accommodate electrical wiring for power as well as HVAC and truss systems. A selection of options includes lighting, doors and openings, ventilation and others. The buildings are energy efficient and can be installed on any terrain with a variety of anchoring options available, making them suitable for remote and undeveloped mining operation sites. Environmentally friendly, once removed the buildings do not leave a permanent footprint on the site as no foundation is needed. Part of today’s flexible economy where rapid adaptation to change is a must, these structures can be resized as needs evolve, and are easily relocated at the site or disassembled and for use at another project site
For more information on a tension fabric mining structure for use in a mining environment, call our experts at Allsite Structure Rentals today 1-888-599-5112.