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How technology is transforming the mining industry

Blog — August 11, 2017

This article originally appeared on Mining.com

From day-to-day data management to the prevention of fatalities and injury, innovative technology is transforming the way the mining industry operates. Increasing demands for efficient production and worker safety are requiring traditional mining companies to embrace innovation, an initiative made easier when they work with earlier stage ventures. This venture enabled innovation helps both mining companies and startups rethink how mining works.

The importance of mobile access

It used to be that managers at mining companies couldn't easily relay information to workers, or vice versa. This impacted worker productivity and safety: if there was a problem deep in the mine, it was difficult to notify decision-makers above.

An increasing number of mining operations are connected through mobile technology, so workers and management stay in touch. This technology has other benefits too. For instance, geofencing allows managers to configure workers' mobile devices so they receive alerts when entering dangerous zones.

Data-driven decisions

Mining companies are data hungry. Information can help them locate mineral veins, determine risks to workers and streamline operations.

So it's no wonder that mining companies are revolutionizing how they collect data in the field. With the help of the Internet of Things, nearly every device in a modern mine is "smart" and constantly relaying data such as water pressure, temperature, concentration of gases and other information. With data like these, managers can take fast, decisive action to increase efficiency, improve safety and increase the operation's sustainability.

Another data-heavy area is electricity use. Mines use a massive amount of electricity–usually far more than they need. By combining smart devices with algorithms that accurately determine electricity needs in various sections of a mine, mining operations can save money and increase sustainability.

Connecting information through the cloud

Traditionally, mining operations have held their information in disparate, disconnected silos. Unfortunately, in a field where both workers and management are constantly on the move, this is a poor strategy.

Cloud technology allows employees to quickly access and alter essential information, wherever they need it. Combined with the proliferation of mobile technology within mining companies, the cloud is invaluable.

The future of mining

With time, technology's predictive and analytical capabilities will improve. Management won't be pushed out of their decision-making role, but in situations where many variables are at play or time is of the essence (such as in an emergency), mining companies will likely move operations to algorithms.

We can also expect to see further developments to make mining more sustainable. Companies will put the power of data toward minimizing mining's negative effects on surrounding ecosystems and communities, moving toward resource extraction with minimal footprint.

Technology is radically transforming mining, with an eye toward productivity, safety and sustainability. The best way that can happen efficiently is through venture enabled innovation, where agile startups work with traditional mining companies to drive transformation faster. With time, we'll see even more significant changes.

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