Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
As social and environmental concerns grow, mine operators are increasingly turning to environmentally friendly, sustainable, and cost-effective methods of operation. Several energy-intensive functions in a mine contribute to its carbon footprint. When it comes to hauling goods and trash out of the mine, diesel-powered equipment produces many CO2 emissions since diesel is the primary energy source. Mining equipment is increasingly powered by batteries rather than diesel, as electromobility swiftly replaces this dependency on diesel fuel. Most mining machinery and equipment manufacturers are developing electric versions and bringing them to market rapidly.
The mining industry has sought to decrease the amount of garbage that ends up on the mine’s surface and in the surrounding area by using as much of their waste for backfill operations as feasible. Even with the best backfilling plans, there will always be more garbage generated than recycled, and that waste must be dumped on the surface or somehow disposed of. In-situ processes such as leaching or recovery aim to create no waste, yet a tiny amount is generated. Technology advancements, notably permeability improvement and mine hydrogeology management, are being pursued to bring more mines closer to becoming zero-waste producers.
Pursuing the ‘Continuous Mining’ idea is another way to ensure long-term sustainability. Worldwide, efforts are being made to establish and build year-round mining operations. Mining operations have traditionally been plagued by inefficiency, poor equipment utilization, and high labor expenses. Many mines across the globe are testing non-stop material extraction and solutions that boost production and minimize operating expenses. We can’t imagine our lives without it. No industry can afford to overlook the benefits that come with it, such as lower operating costs and increased efficiency and speed. There’s no doubt about that.
With the help of digital technology and software, miners can monitor the performance of their operations at the mine face in real-time, as well as the enormous loads carried by high-tonnage payload dump trucks. As a result, the profitability of mines and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) problems have seen a significant uptick due to miners constructing physical and virtual networks of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Using these solutions may improve a mine’s operating efficiency, reduce its carbon footprint, and reduce costs across all of its activities.
Virtual mining experiences are increasingly being experimented with using geographical and geospatial data. You may be in New York City, London, or Buenos Aires and still be able to ‘see’ what the interior of a mine looks like, thanks to 3D modeling. The mine may be explored virtually, thanks to the addition of VR (Virtual Reality). From your desk, you may be a part of a training exercise for several of the mine’s systems, thanks to AR (Augmented Reality). This is a simple idea but a very vast and complicated project. Put another way; you create a virtual model of your mine’s activities. There are (likely) millions of sensors in every piece of equipment linked to the system, collecting data on everything from the assets themselves to the management and production processes. And anything else that comes up while you work on the ‘Twinning.’ After that, you may use the information you’ve gathered to make educated decisions on how to proceed with the project as a whole. Any operational anomalies discovered by the AI software are then acted upon by the software itself, ensuring that it is operating following its programming at all times.
In this way, mines may take proactive rather than reactive measures for employees, equipment, and other vital systems. Maintenance was formerly conducted depending on the amount of time that had passed. Whether or not maintenance was required, services were performed after a predetermined period. By using a new approach to reporting equipment status, mines will gain more usage from their assets.
Using this cyber-physical system, a miner may better plan to fit with the company’s strategy and goals, such as increased productivity and faster decision-making processes, or a decrease in waste and improved use of mining equipment. It’s all about saving money, getting more done with less effort while also working toward a carbon-neutral future.