Robots in mining: types and benefits

Frequently deployed robots include autonomous trucks, drilling robots, and robotic…


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The integration of robots within mining activities has revolutionised the sector.

Mining companies now deploy robotics across various operations, from surface mining to underground excavation and mineral processing.

The major benefits include enhanced efficiency and safety.

What robot type does the mining industry need?

There is a plethora of robot types in mining. The variety depends on the application, the level of sophistication, and the necessary reliability requirements.

Robots also need to be able to sense their surroundings. Depending on the application, they may also need sensors that are sensitive to touch, heat, light, vibration, sound, and certain chemicals.

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Mechanical components are another important element of a robot. These must be precise, reliable, robust, and consume as little power as possible.

Within the mining sector, robots are deployed in various operations such as hauling, drilling, blasting, and exploration.

Commonly deployed robots include autonomous trucks, drilling robots, and robotic conveyor systems.

Autonomous haul trucks are particularly valuable for open-pit mining operations. Operating 24/7, these trucks optimise routes to minimise fuel consumption by 10% and increase productivity by 15-30% while reducing of 80% the risk of accidents, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

For example, blasting is risky and requires personnel to be moved to safer places, leading to lost time or production, hence the benefit of employing ‘teleremote’ or autonomous equipment that can be controlled from a remote location.

Drilling robots enhance efficiency and accuracy in underground mining operations by drilling holes for blasting or exploration.

These robots – ranging from rovers to blasting rigs – improve drilling speed and precision, leading to reduced waste and increased productivity.

Robotic conveyor systems such as hydraulic conveyors, are essential for material handling and debris removal in underground mines.

These systems offer high-capacity transportation over long distances at low maintenance costs, ensuring a high return on investment.

Examples include Komatsu’s hydraulic systems and Caterpillar’s Cat Armored Face Conveyors.

Additionally, robotic maintenance equipment can minimise downtime when repairs are needed.

Drone technology has demonstrated a varied range of mining applications from exploration, surveying, and mapping, to maintaining safety and enhancing security.

For example, this technology can help to survey mining sites and collect data such as topography and mineral layers’ distribution.

The popularity of drones in mining has grown immensely in recent years, with GlobalData’s 2023 survey of 150 mine sites showing that the penetration of drones has grown significantly in Asia, from 46% in 2019 to 88% in 2023.

It has also grown quickly in Europe and the Middle East, from 37% to 70%, respectively while it was already high in Oceania and stable in the Americas.

Benefits of robots’ integration in mining

With the industry under pressure to cut costs and enhance efficiency and safety, automation emerges as a solution.

Overall, robotic technology surpasses human capabilities in performing tasks with precision, resulting in increased efficiency, reduced waste across mining operations, reduced machine damage, increased equipment lifetime, and reduced manual labour.

Also, safety is improved by performing hazardous tasks without humans needing to be present.

Therefore, it is no surprise that GlobalData’s latest mine-site technology adoption survey highlights that the robotics theme is prominent in the sector, emphasising it as one of the key investment areas that the industry is prioritising.




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