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The benefits offered by emerging technologies amid the push for net zero by 2050 are explored in Seequent’s new insights paper, Beyond the Hype: How technology can drive mining operations’ performance. Industry experts recognize that net zero is a positive catalyst for driving change and improving long-term mining operations performance.

The insights paper brings together thought-provoking and insightful contributions from leading industry experts from AngloGold Ashanti, Hecla Mining,, RockMass Technologies and Seequent. It examines the mining industry’s receptiveness to the benefits emerging technologies have to offer while weighing in on the challenges they can present.

The race to net zero

As the world progresses toward the renewable energy transition, the demand for minerals has increased exponentially. The need for raw materials used in solar, wind, and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure has caused an increase in mineral prices. Growth in the market share of EVs and battery storage has caused a surge in demand for lithium, nickel, and cobalt.

At the same time, as stewards of the metals and minerals that are critical to decarbonisation and sustainable development, the mining industry has embraced its responsibility to minimise the impact of operations on the environment. Furthermore, recent global legislations have finalised regulations that must be adhered to by 2050.

With the inevitable growth in the mining sector, coupled with the race to net zero, mining companies will need to take a leap forward in the development and adoption of new practices and innovations that not only improve performance, but also increase sustainability.

New and emerging technologies will transform the industry

Mining companies at the forefront of the transition are using new and emerging technologies to lower emissions and improve productivity. Marcelo Godoy, Chief Technology Officer at AngloGold Ashanti, explains, “The focus of our new technology acquisition is electric vehicles. The use of EVs in underground mines is seen as a great step forward because it reduces ventilation requirements due to the significant reduction in diesel particulate matter and heat.”

A wide range of applications are changing the way mining companies work in terms of efficiency, safety, productivity and sustainability. An increase in solar and wind power generation has been seen across many operations. Autonomous drill rigs and haulage systems deliver safety, efficiency and precision.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are used to conduct site surveys and inspections. Advanced remote monitoring systems are being used at tailings storage facilities (TSFs), an area of increased focus in sustainable and responsible mining. Indeed, many large companies are now establishing dedicated task forces to ensure these TSFs are built, monitored, managed, and closed safely with minimal risk.

AngloGold Ashanti use of tele-remote LHD operators at the Cuibá mine in Brazil.

AngloGold Ashanti use of tele-remote LHD operators at the Cuibá mine in Brazil.

Digital twins and AI provide an exciting future

Digital twin technology can also profoundly change how mining sites work. A digital twin is a complete replica of a real-world system built using a 3D software model where one can view every aspect of a mine’s operation in real time.

Carefully-tailored AI systems that run digital twins allow the user to model and simulate the behaviour of entire mining complexes. They allow mine owners to optimise operations and dramatically increase the ability to design new mines that operate with lower emissions.

There is a huge opportunity for software developers to add AI capabilities that would not only allow for more efficient and cost-effective mine design for a given ore body. The same technology can be integrated into geological data analysis, resource modelling, stability analysis, environmental impact assessments and definition exploration targets.

There are challenges in implementing new technology

Although there have been encouraging and positive developments, the new technology is not yet at the capacity that the mining industry would like it to be. Electric vehicles (EVs) have limitations in terms of power output when compared to traditional diesel systems. Their restricted battery capacity means they are limited in range and run time. This necessitates frequent recharging or battery swapping.

In addition, batteries add considerable weight which impacts a vehicle’s payload capacity and manoeuvrability in the restricted space of an underground mine. EVs are offering improvements, but significant advancements in battery technology is what will make a real difference to both operations and environmental impact.

While the potential of the emerging technologies is massive, their expense in the face of strict investment criteria can present a challenge. The culture of risk avoidance in the industry and the drive for return on investment, can hamper investment in new technology.

Matt Blattman, Director of Technical Services, Hecla Mining comments,

“We must look at the opportunities and decide where we can make an investment with the highest benefit to risk ratio”.

Towards a future of net zero emissions

A common view in mining is that EV operations are a great idea, but the concept is not quite mature enough to fully implement. The industry vision is that advanced technology and autonomous systems coupled with renewable energy sources will help to ensure that the net zero target will be achieved by 2050.

One of the main takeaway points from our insights paper is that net zero must be seen as a positive catalyst for driving change and improving long-term performance.

“The technology is rapidly evolving to help this transformation and I am pleased to see that the industry has a real appetite for its implementation.”

says Pieter Neethling, Seequent Segment Director, Mining Operations.

To discover more, read the insights paper here.

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