Automation and digitalization in mining need new skills for workers

Historically conservative business, mining is witnessing a technological change of…

Historically conservative business, mining is witnessing a technological change of unprecedented proportions.

The advent of COVID-19 has also accelerated widespread trends,including the deployment of automation technologies, electrification, and digitalization.
COVID-19 primarily affected the mining industry’s supply chains and on-site efficiency. In addition to carrying minerals out from the mine, bringing components, machines, and other supplies has proven problematic. Worker shift patterns were increasingly unstable due to lockdown measures and precautions put in place to prevent the virus from spreading, andseveral mines were temporarily closed. Residual resource mining activities were severely hampered as a result.
However, pre-mining operations like feasibility studies and new mine development projects had the most effect from COVID-19. Travel limitations, both internationally and regionally, were a significant factor. Similarly, initiatives in the exploration and discovery stage were disrupted,
while the mining sector was less affected. Industry experts predict that in the medium term, it will be able to weather these blows. Since COVID-19, demand and capacity have been higher than planned for mining output. The key reason for this was China’s consistent demand for raw resources, which offset the lower global market.
COVID-19’s long-term mining effects are still little known. In 2020 and 2021, the effects of new exploration and development projects may not be seen for some years. Essentially, COVID-19 is speeding up the implementation of new technology across the mining sector. Companies
have been embracing automation and digitalization for some time now. Still, the constraints imposed by COVID-19 have persuaded many more in the ordinarily conservative industry to follow their lead as well.
As the economy changes, the mining sector must adapt. This can be seen in new recruiting methods and a greater emphasis on sustainability. COVID-19 significantly influences this disparity, particularly in light of people’s desire to work from home or with flexible schedules.
Automation is becoming more common in mining due to significant advancements in sensor, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics technology. Site productivity has been improved by introducing autonomous vehicles, machines, data centers, and planning activities.
COVID-19 accelerated the uptake of mining automation technology. Workers were unable to reach the location. Therefore, facilities completed autonomous transformation initiatives early.
Several corporations have retrained and kept their employees in desk-based operations, allowing them to remotely supervise autonomous mines from a distance.
Data and ‘digital twinning’ systems, which connect mining sites to centralized control centers in major cities, have become more common in mining. Australia’s three largest iron ore mining companies have implemented the digital twin’s strategy in recent years. For the on-site operations, artificial intelligence (AI) analyzes the data acquired at mining locations to build models, blast timings, and many other improvements. Mining’s shift to automation and
digitization (accelerated by COVID-19) necessitates the development of new skills for industry personnel. Mines now rely more heavily on data science, systems engineering, software development, and digital infrastructure to attract and train new employees.
Mines have retrained and re-employed individuals who would have been replaced by automation in new desk-based positions. Others are searching for excellent digital skills outside of the mining industry. Mining must improve its image, particularly concerning worker rights and
sustainability, to recruit non-traditional mining expertise. Work to find new desk-based jobs for displaced workers will assist mining companies in searching for new personnel.
Mining corporations will be able to recruit top new talent from other sectors and industries if they fulfill their pledges to decarbonize operations and extract resources in an ecologically acceptable manner. Mining is also thinking about how to build a talent pool by partnering with
schools and universities. Mining engineers require digital technology capabilities, which may be taught via changes to the degree curriculum. Mining schools should collaborate with academics in conventional computer science and digital technology programs to assist mining in attracting
new employees.

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