The Future of Mining is Automated

There has been a lot of buzz around automation and autonomous technology within mining in recent times, and although it may seem as though this new way of operating popped up overnight, you might be surprised to know that autonomy has been used in mining since the 1960s.

The first unmanned mining rail carriages went to work in an underground mine in Germany in 1967, then automated underground drill and remote-control ore extraction machines followed in the 1970s.  In fact, the adoption of autonomous equipment in mining is generally thought to have lagged behind other industries such as manufacturing and computing, possibly due to the complexity of environments, space, and conditions of a mining operation.

This is set to change, however, as financial imperatives force mining operations to become more productive and more efficient. According to a Citi report automation is a key driver of productivity growth and productivity is the key driver of long-term economic growth.

As of February 2020, GlobalData’s Mining Intelligence Center was tracking 459 autonomous haul trucks operating on surface mines across the globe. Of these 369 were in Australia, followed by Canada (39), Chile (18), and Brazil (14). This compares with 348 at the same time in 2019, a year-on-year increase of 32%.

This growth is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years due to major investments in autonomy by mining companies in Australia. According to GlobalData research, Komatsu and Caterpillar collectively account for 93% of the autonomous surface trucks in operation and are continually adding to their autonomous fleets in Australia.

NB Industries is completing the fit-out of ancillary equipment for the first deployment of Autonomous Haulage Awareness (AHA) systems on the East Coast of Australia, a task that requires a combination of specialty trades to enable equipment to become visible and communicate with the autonomous system.

NB Industries’ Business Development Manager Simon Plant said being involved in this project, has afforded the opportunity to showcase and upskill local talent.

“Due to the shortage of skilled tradespeople in our sector, we are passionate about investing in training and mentoring to grow the resourcefulness and relevance of our team into the future,” he said.

Servicing heavy industry in the Bowen Basin’s challenging environment since 2005, NB Industries possesses a unique understanding of how autonomous and digital technology functions within a mining application.

If you would like to discover how NB Industries can assist you to deliver a tailored digital solution for your project, contact us today.