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Make no bones about it, the mining and quarrying industries are experiencing intense periods of change. Productivity in the global mining sector is said to be down almost a third (28%). In the past, mining has oft been criticised for failing to embrace innovation and technological enhancements.

However, in the face of some difficult years for both industries, mining and quarrying firms have been forced into adopting innovation to reduce overheads and improve efficiencies.

Automation, automation, automation

Mining industries are increasingly utilising driverless trucks to work autonomously in and around mines. Both Cat and Komatsu implemented autonomous haulage systems in the last couple of years. Hitachi has also confirmed successful tests on its own autonomous mine haul trucking software.

The future for mining could be entirely miner-less. Rio Tinto recently announced proposals to operate an “intelligent mine” using only autonomous trains, trucks, and robotics. It’s hoped this machinery would allow mining companies to drill down deeper and into narrower shafts that are generally unsafe for human miners to enter.

Replacing diesel with electric

The Paris Climate Agreement has cited the need to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change once and for all. This sentiment has been echoed by many reports from a host of other leading environmental organisations. Of course, mining is by no means the eco-friendliest industry in the first place. However, modern mining and quarrying industries are now trying to minimise their impact where they can.

Firms such as Cat are designing electric vehicles such as the Underground Electric LHD to operate in and out of the mines without adding to the pollutants that already exist in the atmosphere.

Sorting and processing above ground

The technological innovation has not just been restricted to below-ground levels in the mining and quarrying sector. Firms are investing big bucks in mineral processing technology that utilises sensors to sort commercially valuable minerals from ores in the most efficient way.

The months and years ahead could also see greater investment in other separation technologies. Heavy-duty mining magnets may potentially transform the mineral separation process once again before long.