Future of Automated Mining: Efficient but at Risk
August 24, 2016 | Supercomputers, Conveyor Belts, Artificial Intelligence
Necessity is the mother of invention so goes the saying. It could not hold truer for any other industry than the mining business. Hard pressed by a prolonged period of depressed commodity prices, the industry is finding creative ways to lower down productions costs.
Now, to streamline production activities, big miners like BHP Billiton are looking at modernizing mining.
The mining leader, moving away from traditional mode of transporting ore from trucks, will now use a 656 feet long motorized conveyor belt at one of its pits in Australia to move more than 10,000 metric tons of ore hourly from yard to freight ships headed for international markets.
But that’s not all. Mining companies are eyeing advanced technologies to boost their productivity.
BHP, for instance, is contemplating using military-grade sensors and supercomputers that would help identifying and mapping high-grade mines in the future, according to the company’s head of technology Diane Jurgens, cited by the Wall Street Journal. These technologies, once incorporated in the production process, would help miners save billions of dollars every year.
Risks associated with advanced technologies, however, could make miners extremely vulnerable.
Miners are typically more risk-prone than any other industry. One minor glitch in the production process, entire operations in the plant can come down to a standstill for several days. Hence, any major breakdown involving advanced technologies could wreak havoc. Unmanned trains carrying tons of ore from a stockyard to ports can substantially cut labor costs and improve efficiency; but running on artificial intelligence could make them vulnerable to hacking or other forms of attacks like denial-of-service assaults. Likewise, malefactors—insiders or external—could bug supercomputers to extract data.
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