Technology is catching up with the mining industry. Soon many mining operations in lonely and desolate areas could be carried out by automation with control centers a few hundred kms away in the cities.
The automation of mining is likely to increase production, improve safety and reduce the operating costs in the long term for mining companies.
Some of the bigger mining companies are already test driving the automated mining concept. Although it is still too early to state just how much they are going to save given the fact that they are not revealing just what they have spent on the project. Is the improvement really going to be worth it in terms of efficiency and cost?
Rio Tinto is an industry leader in remote mining technology and is already hoping to be the first to have a fully automated mine. They already have remote vehicles capable of repetitive tasks, but need to invest some more in the finer robots that would make automation possible and profitable.
Andrew Stokes, global surface mining leader in Rio’s technology and innovation department in Australia said that with the improved fortunes of the mining company they thought it was time to see if they could take advantage of their position of actually reinvesting in technology to improve their mining operations and give them an edge in the marketplace.
The mine in question is called ‘A Pit’ and is located at the West Angelas iron ore mine in Australia’s Pilbara region. The robotic site is technologically impressive, but most analysts feel that such a revolutionary change will take some time coming given the high initial costs involved.
Mr Stokes is keen on building a mining operation where people are geographically agnostic. The miners will be more like Air Traffic Controllers who will supervise the automated production by manipulating the direction of drills, loaders and driverless haul trucks from a location far away from the actual mine that houses the control center.
Automation will see some mining jobs disappear and others grow. Naturally this would be a concern to the large number of mine workers in Australia, but since automated mining in not going to step in for a while yet, they do have a breather.