BY ELIZABETH FABRI
WITHIN a decade Australian mines will be operated almost entirely by autonomous machines, according to global group Hitachi.
Game-changing technologies such as remote and integrated operation centres, driverless vehicles, and advanced analytics are set to be “commonplace” across the entire industry by 2030.
“Such advances in technology are predicted to increase productivity and reduce costs by up to 25 per cent, which will have a significant impact on retaining Australia’s competitiveness in the Asia Pacific region, in addition to major positive social impacts such as the ability for mining employees to work in metropolitan areas,” Hitachi stated.
“Hitachi also predicts that by 2030 most mines will have fully integrated IoT systems that will connect all mining operations to central analytics hubs where strategic decisions can be made and implemented thousands of kilometres away from the mining site.”
Hitachi’s views were echoed days later by Anglo American technical director Tony O-Neill at the Mines and Money conference in London.
Mr O-Neill said in five to seven years “the industry that everybody currently knows will be unrecognisable” and Anglo’s employees of the future would only need to focus on managing the company’s relations with Governments and communities near its mines.
Bots or software that could execute solutions would be essential to underground mining, he added.
Technologies of this scale were already being rolled out by some of the nation’s biggest producers— BHP, Rio Tinto, and more recently Fortescue Metals Group and Roy Hill.
In December Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury announced in 2018 the Rio Tinto board will seek approval to develop an “intelligent” iron ore mine at a cost of $2.2 billion.
The Koodaideri project would produce about 40 million tonnes of iron ore a year from as early as 2021, and incorporate the latest innovations.
“We will bring all our technologies into a single place with a mine that is purpose-built to adapt those technologies,” Mr Salisbury told Reuters.
“We are calling it our intelligent mine.”