The mining industry’s true ROI can be difficult to see. Innovative data-gathering and automated technologies help uncover that value.

Thanks to the availability of enhanced interpretation and multifaceted mining information, automation, and data, mining companies are dramatically improving the way individual sites operate. By using connected devices, robots, AI, and automation technologies, mining experts can delegate routine menial tasks to robots and automation software to free themselves up for more critical duties that require human expertise.

Each innovation simplifies manual labor in some way. Instead of removing human oversight altogether, automation in the mining industry spotlights where people could best allocate their time and energy. AI can help humans efficiently interpret significant swaths of data, eliminating traditional bottlenecks by providing accurate data and interpretations to support swift and educated decision-making.

These are decisions that can preserve the safety of your geologists and geotechnical engineers and preserve your bottom-line. We’ve seen innovative solutions keep all of this in mind.

How Mining Companies Can Continue to Thrive

Mining professionals who embrace technology and empower their leaders to use it can see safer, more innovative, and less costly results. Don’t just take our word for it, though. Trends are emerging each day that help streamline processes and ensure mine safety for everyone involved.

Here are four approaches we’ve seen lead to successful outcomes:

  1. Creating a digital twin.
    Innovations in the mining industry have made it possible to create a digital twin of the constantly changing terrain in and around the pit. Combined with drone-based capture, processing, and cloud access, this complementary solution can provide detailed insight into all phases of mining from exploration and planning to construction, production, closure, and even reclamation. With a digital twin, the entire company uses the same data to bring their expertise together and execute on a shared vision with a clear comparison of what is physically happening in the mine and the plan.

    More specifically, this drone-based 3D data capture and processing technology can also be applied to aspects like highwall scanning during the mining exploration and production phase. It provides quality data of open-pit highwalls at a faster rate, giving surveyors and the rest of the team more frequent access to data for decision-making. It also provides geologists and geotechnical engineers with faster access to time-sensitive information, making resource identification, pit planning, and excavation far more efficient.

    For example, one large mining company we work with saved $6 million over 12 months in survey costs alone by using this technology. With a full deployment and standardization across all of its mines, this company projects an ROI of 10 times that amount over the next 12 months.

  1. Implementing remote sensing and monitoring alongside 3D data capture.
    Smart sensors can combine with drone data to collect information on the status of critical areas such as tailings dams, enabling mine managers to make smarter decisions that can significantly improve community and mine safety. Leveraging this technology can also help mining companies proactively identify areas where the operation efficiency needs to be optimized.
  2. Embracing an autonomous operation.
    Big data and automation in the mining industry go hand in hand. As mining methods evolve and equipment becomes autonomous, it enables mining companies to rethink their entire operations. They’re looking at every aspect of a mining site, including heavy equipment, and switching to automation whenever possible. These efforts have helped some sites achieve speed and efficiency increases that shorten cycle times and increase production up to 25%.
  3. Standardizing processes.
    Technological advancements in the mining industry, while mostly positive, can also lead to fragmentation with incompatible technologies that end up being used by different departments. While experimentation is critical for any sort of innovation, companies that standardize around specific platforms and protocols are the only ones that have achieved the ROI to scale beyond pilot programs.

Innovation in the mining industry through technology is quickly becoming a driving factor for companies that want to remain competitive. Considering we’ve only scratched the surface of the benefits offered by mining innovation, this trend will only increase with time. Companies that embrace technology today and take advantage of what data and automation can do for their operations are setting themselves up to stay more competitive for years to come.

Empower your workers with the information and resources needed to keep your mining company relevant and successful for the coming years.

Tony Poon is the VP of product at Skycatch. He brings more than 20 years of experience turning complex software and hardware technologies into scalable products that create sustainable value for enterprises across many industries, including computing, imaging, communications, entertainment, and now mining and construction.