AI in mining is enabling companies to improve their efficiency and productivity, which is crucial to their profitability.
The mining industry is pivotal to the world’s economy. The mining industry's top companies had a total revenue of approximately 683 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. Implementation of AI in mining activities can help push the industry even further forward by reducing the operating costs and simplifying the mining processes.
Benefits of Using AI in Mining
A majority of mining companies still depend on traditional mining practices. These methods come with their own set of challenges and limitations. The adoption of technologies to simplify the mining process has become the need of the hour. AI brings a wide array of benefits for mining companies helping overcome the challenges faced by the industry. The following are four major ways in which AI is helping in mining.
Simplifying Mineral Exploration
Mineral exploration is the core of the mining industry. AI can help companies to detect and extract minerals. Using machine learning and AI, computers can be trained to identify promising areas. Data from multiple sources can be analyzed, and machine learning algorithms can identify exploration regions. Using AI and machine learning, the software can highlight ore bodies as well as map out these regions with extreme detail.
Helping in Mineral Extraction and Transportation
AI-powered robots and vehicles can help in drilling, blasting, loading, and hauling activities. These vehicles help companies cut down on costs as these machines are more productive and efficient compared to the human workforce. Rio Tinto has already been using autonomous hauling trucks since 2008. They have reduced their operating costs by employing autonomous trucks in mines by around 13%. The use of autonomous vehicles not only simplifies the mining process but can also substantially improve the safety of workers as well as help cut down on costs.
Improving Worker Safety
Mining kills and injures more people than any other profession in the world. The mining industry witnesses around 15,000 deaths in a year. AI can help engineers and workers prevent accidents and injuries. Hazardous working environments can be predicted by analyzing data collected by AI devices. AI-enabled sensors can monitor the working conditions and turn preventive maintenance into predictive maintenance. This reduces the workers' exposure to dangerous situations. AI can also be utilized to provide training to employees regarding possible hazardous events in a simulator-based environment using AR and VR technologies. The use of AI shifts mining to become more process-oriented rather than being people-oriented. This, ultimately, raises the standards of worker safety across the entire workforce.
Reducing the Ecological Impact
Embedding AI technology in pre‑existing mining activities is helping the industry reduce its energy demand and decrease the environmental footprint. Machine learning can forecast energy peaks and help companies adopt preventive measures. AI devices can monitor ecological parameters like groundwater and temperature to help evaluate the impact of mining activities.
Artificial intelligence has already proven to be a boon for many sectors, including mining. The use of AI in mining might not help solve all the problems that the sector faces. However, it can bring about significant changes in major areas of concern by providing crucial data that can be analyzed to overcome major inefficiencies in the industry.