Interviews, TECHNOLOGY

Mining automation

Technological advances expand into every sector of economy. Invest Foresight discussed mining equipment advancement, information technologies impact on mining, and participation of innovative startups in the industry with Jess Kindler, Servicing Dpt. President at Sweden’s Epirok international company.

– What, in your opinion, are the most important trends in the development of mining equipment?

– Here are four of the most important trends:

Automation. Increasingly, mining operations will involve more automation and less manual labor. For example, Epiroc provides mining companies the opportunity to run drill rigs by remote control thousands of kilometers away. This increases productivity and safety and reduces costs.

Mining intelligence. Increasingly, underground mining companies want to know exactly where their equipment and personnel are. This has been quite tricky in the past in big underground mines that have many kilometers of tunnels. In 2017, Epiroc (Atlas Copco) acquired a stake in Swedish company Mobilaris, which is the frontrunner in mining intelligence. By using Mobilaris’ technology, which gives a clear vision of where the equipment and personnel are at all times, safety and productivity are greatly enhanced. Here is a press release we did on that acquisition.

Energy efficiency. The global community increasingly wants to cut emissions, and this is a very important aspect for the mining community as well. Epiroc (Atlas Copco) has for many years been a leader in providing energy-efficient mining equipment. Epiroc is now taking another big step by introducing more and more battery-operated (instead of diesel) equipment. For example, the ST7 Battery Scooptram loader.  This not only makes the air cleaner in the mines, it saves the mining companies a great deal of money they otherwise would have to spend on ventilation.

Safety and ergonomics. Mining companies around the world are increasingly concerned that their operators should be safe and enjoy an ergonomic work environment. This trend benefits Epiroc, whose machines are well-known for being the safest and most ergonomic in the business.

– What is the place of information technologies in mining equipment industry? To be exact, artificial intelligence and big data? Do you see development of equipment in this sphere?

– Information technologies are quickly becoming extremely important for the mining equipment industry. For example, Epiroc has an information gathering system (big data) called Certiq – it collects data on the machines used and then the mining companies can use the data to run operations smarter. Automation and mining intelligence (knowing exactly where your underground equipment and personnel are) are increasingly used now thanks to information technologies.

– If you dream up and imagine what will be the mining equipment of the future? Let’s say what will be the difference in ten years?

– Really tough to say but one example of new mining equipment that we really believe will be big over the next decade is our Mobile Miner. Read about it here.

– Is it possible to predict that the development of technology will reduce the cost of mining – in particular, in Russia?

– Yes. It is definitely our expectation that the total cost of mining will decrease as the mining operations become more intelligent. It is partly because the machines themselves will continue to become more efficient, but more so because the mining operations will be more automated and efficient, with less down time etc.

– What is the required amount of investments in R&D in industry and how are they organized? Do you use own research centers or interact with universities?

– We have own R&D facilities in Sweden, USA, India and China. We also interact with some universities, especially in Sweden.

– Do small innovative startups participate in technical advancement of your industry? Do you interact with them?

– Yes, it happens. Mobilaris is a perfect example of that (see press release on Mobilaris above). Mobilaris was a small innovative start-up firm in northern Sweden that developed this fantastic technology. Epiroc is now part owner of it.

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