Miners get connected, fly into 2020
Wireless networks, drones are top mining tech investments Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – January 15, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:04am
When it comes to emerging mining technologies, high-speed wireless networks and drones are the top investment choices of companies seeking to discover new deposits and mine them more efficiently.
A recent survey by GlobalData, a London, England-based analytics and research firm, found that 61 percent of mine sites around the globe have already made significant investments in fully implemented mine communication systems, such as private LTE networks or 5G. This is up from about 55 percent in 2018.
These high-speed networks are often lynchpins for other technologies being implemented at mines such as remote operated and autonomous mining equipment; predictive maintenance for mobile and stationary equipment; and control centers for monitoring and analyzing the enormous amount of digital data modern mines generate.
For example, each of the more than 4,000 haul trucks in Rio Tinto mines around the world have 45 electronic tags sending data every few seconds, providing more than 30 million geo-positions every day.
While the majors have led the way in investment in high-speed wireless communication systems, small and mid-tier miners are now joining suit. According to GlobalData, 53 percent of smaller miners are expecting to make investments in this area over the next two years – the highest share of any of the mining technologies investigated by the research firm.
"Further investment in communication systems is critical for mines looking to extend levels of automation or deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This is driving the rising use of private LTE networks and 5G use within the mining sector as it seeks continued improvements in productivity through higher utilization," said David Kurtz, director of analysis, mining and construction at GlobalData.
Drones have not been adopted by the mining sector as quick as communications systems, but that is beginning to change as more companies are using unmanned aircraft for mineral exploration, surveying and numerous other tasks.
About 21 percent of mine sites surveyed by GlobalData at the end of 2019 had fully invested in drones, compared to just 9 percent a year earlier, and 45 percent of majors and 41 percent of mid-tier and junior mining and minerals exploration companies expect to invest in drones in the next two years.
"Investment in drones is not expensive, but the payback in terms of cost savings, faster decision-making and improved productivity means it is not surprising to see such a rapid increase in levels of investing," said Kurtz.
EDITOR'S NOTE: More information on the use of drones at mines and for mineral exploration can be found in Drones set new heights for mining industry in the Jan. 8 edition of Metal Tech News.