Green light needed for mining’s big shift to autonomy


Richard Roberts

Top image :
Ocado Group’s ‘Hive’ robotic grocery warehouse
‘Once its value has been demonstrated there will be a significant demand for the transition to system-level autonomy’

A greenfield mine developer is going to have to sell a vision of a fully autonomous mine to investors, and then execute successfully, to really create a new paradigm for the industry, according to the former head of innovation at one of the world’s major mining groups.

David Pugh, a technologist from outside mining who spent five years at Anglo American Corp, wrote recently that he thought mining’s mobile-equipment automation bandwagon was definitely on the move. InvestMETS.com was keen to ask him how fast he thought things were moving and what that meant in terms of arriving some time soon at a preferred destination.

Currently, some of the world’s largest mining companies and original equipment manufacturers – who dominate what little production-unit automation has occurred so far in the industry – say autonomous vehicles are safer and more productive than human-operated machines. This is without entire mines and more importantly systems being designed for autonomy.

Mines are not as safe and productive as they could be for two main reasons.

One, not many mines have automated production and ancillary fleets.

Secondly, and the primary reason for the above, the real gains from automation are rarely able to be captured, and displayed, because systems are not in place that will allow it.

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