Mining industry urged to invest in ‘disruptive’ digital technology

When it comes to mining operations, exploration, project appraisal, mine design, closure, and post-closure stages, digital technology has a lot to offer the sector. Heinrich Jantzen, Senior Mining Advisor at Zutari, holds this opinion.

The premier infrastructure advising and consulting organization will be present at Mining Indaba Africa, which takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from February 5–8.

When comparing the industry’s expenditures on technology and innovation to other sectors, like the petroleum sector, for instance, they are eighty percent lower. But operating costs are rising three times faster than rates of consumer inflation, and they may double in less than five years.

“With industry margins being squeezed on all fronts, the mining industry simply must embrace innovation if it wants to find more productive, efficient, and sustainable ways of extracting value from the minerals it mines,” said Jantzen. This calls for major innovation for the industry to resolve its critical challenges.

“The potential to add value lies in increased production, productivity, efficiency, safety, and reducing the risk of human error,” adds Jantzen.

Some of the so-called “disruptive” technologies that are expected to be important are cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), robots, advanced robotics, genomics, and 3D printing. Further value will be unlocked by additional emerging technologies like enhanced materials, automation, machine learning, energy storage, and renewable energy generation.

According to Jantzen, mining firms should create a “technology map” to help in mine modernization through the use of new technologies throughout the mining process. For instance, several cutting-edge technology have been specially modified for the mining industry. Furthermore, technology used in sectors other than mining has the ability to enhance mining.

“Given the magnitude of the extraction challenges faced, it is quite extraordinary that the global mining industry currently spends so little on innovation and business-improvement programmes,” said Jantzen.

“Every year, the work becomes more difficult. Ore grades are declining, while water scarcity threatens to strand assets in the ground, and operating licences have become more difficult to obtain,” emphasizes Jantzen. Further recommendations made by Jantzen include lean management and lean operating system improvements, but these are probably harder to maintain.

Technology may reduce repetitious and taxing work, relocate personnel out of danger, turn around unprofitable reserves, and enhance the environmental impact of the sector. Acquiring the appropriate technology is only one piece of the puzzle, though.

“There are many examples of companies that have invested in technology and not seen improvements because they neglected the vital engines of tech-enabled transformation, management systems, and culture,” said Jantzen.

The mining sector contributes significantly to the world economy, but it also has particular difficulties in terms of sustainability, environmental effect, and quickening the sector’s shift to a greener future.

“Constantly evolving technology, innovation, and digitalisation are key. Mining must embrace these future advancements to remain competitive,” said Jantzen.