A technology map to facilitate the process of mine modernization throughout the mining cycle

J. Jacobs
2017 Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy  
The global mining industry is currently under pressure and is at the bottom of the largest mining supercycle since the Second World War (Bryant, 2011) . Mining companies face everincreasing challenges to profitability due to low commodity prices, increasingly tough mining conditions, and rising pressure from stakeholders (Deloite, 2014). In the short term, the decreased commodity prices have been straining cash flows, while in the longer term many existing mines are maturing, thereby resulting
more » ... n the extraction of lower ore grades and longer haul distances from the excavation face. Orebody replacement rates are also declining and the duration of development for new mines is increasing. Added to this, worldwide mining operations are up to 28% less productive today than they were a decade ago, and that is after adjusting for declining ore grades (McKinsey, 2015a) . Depleting ore reserves and declining ore grades in existing operations also means that companies are required to mine deeper to reach new deposits, which in turn increases costs and results in reduced profits. Since the start of the 21st century, over 75% of new base metal discoveries have been at depths greater than 300 m (Deloite, 2014), highlighting both the gradual depletion of shallower reserves and the need for deeper mining. However, mining at these depths involves additional challenges, such as safety issues, flooding, gas discharges, seismic events, and ventilation problems (Deloite, 2014). Apart from the fact that mining operations are now deeper, the geology is also more challenging and mines operate at higher risk. The result is that continuous business improvement alone is no longer sufficient for companies to survive (Deloitte, 2016) . At the 2015 Johannesburg Mining Indaba in South Africa, Chris Griffith (CEO of Anglo American Platinum) stated: Given the magnitude of our extraction challenges, it is quite extraordinary that the global mining industry currently spends so little on innovation and business-improvement programmes. On a revenue-to-revenue basis, the industry spends 80% less on technology and innovation compared with the petroleum sector, for example. Yet our operating costs are increasing three times faster than consumer-inflation rates and are It is vital for organizations and individual operations to have access to a platform with technology-related information to consider for further research and development. This paper presents a technology map that was created with the purpose of facilitating mine modernization through technological advancement throughout the mining lifecycle/cycle. To achieve this, a platform was created to represent the mining lifecycle that incorporates each of the mining phases, i.e. exploration, project evaluation, mine design, operations, closure, and post-closure phases. The constituent value drivers for each phase were then investigated and included. These covered the various focus areas within the mining cycle, such as the applicable sub-phases, processes, systems, activities, or specific challenges, that impact a mine's operation. Technologies, both physical and digital, with the potential to add value to these focus areas were then incorporated into the platform to create a technology map. This potential to add value, if applied or modified for application, was assessed on any combination of five factors, namely the ability to increase production, increase productivity, increase efficiency, improve safety, or reduce the risk of human error. The primary focus was on technologies currently classified as disruptive and/or exponential, e.g. internet of things, cloud computing, advanced robotics, genomics, 3D printing, and artificial Intelligence. Other emerging technologies were also investigated, such as automation, machine learning, renewable energy generation, energy storage, advanced materials, and more. Furthermore, selected innovative technologies adapted for or developed in mining were also investigated, as well as other new technologies in non-mining industries with potential to add value to mining. As such, a technology map was created that covers the entire lifecycle of a mining venture, which highlights technologies with the potential to add value to specific focus areas. This technology map may be applied to facilitate advances in technology for mine modernization.
doi:10.17159/2411-9717/2017/v117n7a5 fatcat:bfweg5nu5vfrherdjdw54tw3ji