What binds the mining industry, which is so firmly rooted on the ground, to satellites orbiting in space? Data. There’s a lot of it.
Mining, in reality, is an excellent match for the satellite business. Mine sites are frequently distant and isolated, with limited or non-existent land-based connectivity for communication and monitoring. Aerial imaging and geophysics have traditionally been used by mining corporations for exploration, as well as ground and drone-based surveys for stockpile and tailings dam monitoring. But it could all change in the near future.
Satellites and unmanned drones can help autonomous mining by providing off-grid broadband communications, high-resolution imaging, and precise geo-positioning services. While satellite access has always been expensive—if even available—a flood of new, cost-effective satellite solutions is on the horizon.
According to projections, up to 1,100 satellites could be deployed per year by 2025, up from 386 in 2019. The optimistic number of satellites in orbit by 2029 is 107,671, while the mid-range forecast is 30,000. As a result of current trends, numerous relevant satellites will soon be overhead at any given time, and mining businesses will have access to an explosion of dependable 5G bandwidth to monitor and run their mines in ways never previously imaginable.
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Satellites have the potential to change the way miners and other remote businesses do business, from exploration to extraction to product sale. Miners will have real-time control over every part of operations, allowing them to improve efficiency and automation, streamline reporting, promote sustainability, and give early warning systems for safety and environmental concerns.