Mining has long been a driving industry behind Australia’s stability, global economic success, and low unemployment rates. Our abundant natural resources, spread across the vast land, also mean that massive infrastructure, workforce, and complex logistics and extraction processes have also been necessary to build up.
The mining industry in Australia, particularly in WA, has been early adopters of technology solutions that help businesses to become more efficient, effective, successful, and save on resources.
What does ‘Digital Mine’ mean?
The concept of the Digital Mine is about as far removed from original mining as possible. Hard labour, terrible conditions, and long trade routes are now a centuries-old practice.
Instead, the Digital Mine is designed to automate as much as possible, improve site safety and accountability, expedite logistics, and use interconnected systems, including autonomous heavy machinery, to run a well-oiled machine, with less help from human workers.
While this may not be great news for Dan the heavy truck driver, as he might have to switch up his current career choice, it is good news for mining companies.
Up until now, only the top dogs in the mining industry have been able to afford to start rolling out this end-to-end digital infrastructure.
Current Australian Digital Mine initiatives
Rio Tinto have dubbed their Pilbara operation the “Mine of the Future”. It even has a trademark it’s that futuristic. Beginning in 2008, the mining operations include a real-time operations centre based in Perth, plus autonomous haulage, drilling, and trains. With a program that has been running already for 10 years, this stalwart has been a key part of Rio Tinto’s mining operations in Australia.
This year, Rio Tinto in conjunction with the Australian government are introducing TAFE courses in automation technology to help students get into automation in mining. Just because some mining jobs will be replaced, doesn’t mean that there won’t be other jobs to fill in new niche mining careers. These skills will potentially also be translatable to other autonomous roles cropping up, including those in training, safety, health, and agriculture.
Over at Fortescue Metals Group’s Solomon Hub, also Pilbara-based, their autonomous haulage fleet has helped to increased productivity by 20% – significant gains.
BHP highlights a systems engineering approach as the key underpinning strategy for technology to enable the Digital Mine. Mining supply-chain and decision-making solutions have been rolled out to create less friction and optimization of resources across their Queensland and NSW railway networks.
The Digital Mine is here to stay
Mining has been perhaps one of the industries that has been on the forefront of embracing the digital revolution. With so much money to be made from mining and the gains that can be made from using automated, predictive, and self-servicing solutions in the industry, it makes sense that mining companies have been prepared to pour funds into these previously costly exercises.
Australia has been a clever market to start the rollout of these systems, due to our accountability and safety demands on site, plus the ease of doing business reliably in a stable region of the world.
However, it’s not just large mining operations that can get in on the Digital Mine idea.
With the cost of ownership declining, commercial solutions becoming more available, and systems becoming more advanced, it means that everyone involved in the mining industry can start implementing their little slice of the Digital Mine.
In BHP’s Creating the Future of Mining article above, they also touch on the subject of strategic partners. Strategic partners include technology companies and institutions that can help with creating and maintaining the digital mine, whether you’re a small mining operation, an international corporation, or a mining industry affiliate, such as a catering services company.
Every company involved in mining needs to think strategically about how they fit into the Digital Mine ecosystem, and how their systems are fitting in (or going to fit in) to operations now and in the future.
As mentioned, the systems engineering approach will set you up for success in digitising operations and processes in your mining-related endeavours.
Now that you understand the Digital Mine and the importance of technology for the industry, stay tuned to the following articles. We’ll dig deeper into how companies in the Mining Services can start becoming more digitised and become part of the Digital Mine.
In the meantime, if you need any help to plan, review, and manage your systems or would like to have a chat about how we can help you to capitalise on the Digital Mine revolution, then make sure to give us a call on 1300 991 351 , or reach out via our online contact form below.
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