On Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ radar in the longer term is the use of the latest robotics technology to send low-profile autonomous vehicles, instead of people, into deep underground hard rock mining tunnels.
The company states: “The advantages of a fleet (or ‘swarm’) of low cost, modular mining robots are two-fold: because they go directly into the valuable orebody, without touching the overburden, they significantly reduce the safety risks of underground mining; they also deliver precision mining on a daily basis. Compared to conventional mining, a ‘swarm’ robotics system breaks the paradigm of scale. Innovation in mining has traditionally meant scaling up – bigger trucks, bigger shovels – to increase capacity. With robotics, the smaller the better: lightweight and modular, robots can perform multiple tasks, with precision, in any terrain.”
Together with advances in data science, automated and remote systems will lead inevitably to a simpler, faster – and standardised – operation; “an outcome that will move mining closer to reducing and better managing the huge variability that characterises the industry today, while crucially generating safety and productivity gains.”