Automation in Mining Industry

Automation in Mining Industry

Advances in autonomous robotics have allowed specific sites to make small improvements in this direction.

FREMONT, CA: Over the last few decades, automation in the mining industry has steadily diminished the miner's role in the pit, cutting them further and further away from the coal face. Latest breakthroughs in autonomous robotics have promised to push this method to a logical end.

Automation Could Advance Safety in the Mining Industry

Automation is a well-known aspect of a modern mine. People who descend into the depths of deep pits no longer carry picks, but run complex, massive pneumatic drills, or 'continuous miners' who grind and scrape coal and soft minerals from the wall of the tunnel employing sharp metallic teeth. Instead of moving rocks on their backs in large tarpaulin sacks, the assorted gravel and small particulates of the site are thrown onto conveyor belts and softly rolled to the surface.

Consequently, it seems eminently desirable to exclude human beings from the process, not only from a cost and time viewpoint—machines, after all, do not tire or need a financial reward for their labor—but also from a strict security perspective. Advances in autonomous robotics have allowed specific sites to make small improvements in this direction.

Although the implementation of this technology can, based on recent cases, be partial, one site has become a valuable case study to explore what a fully automated mine could look like. The company used automated vehicles and mining machines nearly entirely to produce gold mines, to the tune of 300,000 ounces a year.

After conducting a feasibility analysis and talking to site operators where autonomous systems had been integrated at many points of the mining process, the organization found that it would be able to make essential saves on staffing costs and witness an estimated 30 percent improvement in operating performance if the new site were to be completely automated.

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