The mining industry is integral to the global economy, supplying essential materials such as iron ore, copper, and coal. However, mining operations have traditionally been labor-intensive and dangerous—inefficiencies and environmental degradation have long plagued them.
Fortunately, robotics and automation have revolutionized the mining industry in recent years. The use of new technology in mining has come to modernize the processes involved and help miners avoid high-risk situations and arduous tasks. One example is the use of robots.
This article will extensively discuss how robots are changing the mining industry and what that means for the future of work. Read on to learn more.
Types Of Robots Used In The Mining Industry
There are different types of robots used in the mining industry today. These include:
- Autonomous Mining Vehicles: One of the most common mining robots is autonomous mining vehicles. They transport materials, supplies, and equipment within a mine. Thanks to their sensors and computer vision system, they can safely navigate the hazardous mining area.
- Autonomous Drilling Machines: Autonomous drilling machines are used to dig into the ground to extract resources. They have sophisticated sensors and imaging systems for detecting and mapping the underground.
- Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs): ROVs are robotic vehicles operated remotely, far from the mining site. They’re used to explore and map the underground environment and inspect and repair mining equipment.
These are just some common robotics innovations used to modernize the mining industry.
How Robots Are Changing The Mining Industry
Here’s how robots are modernizing and transforming the mining industry:
1. Robots Enhance The Safety Of Miners
Robots reduce the risk of injuries by performing difficult or dangerous tasks for humans. For instance, they’re used to perform drilling, blasting, and hauling jobs. They can also monitor hazardous environments, such as underground mines, reducing the need for human workers to enter dangerous areas.
In addition, by automating certain processes, robots reduce the amount of manual labor required, lowering the chances of human error, which can cause accidents at work. Additionally, they can monitor the environment, alerting workers of potential hazards.
Here’s how safety can be reinforced when using robotics:
- Establish Safety Protocols: After conducting a risk assessment, it’s critical to establish the necessary protocols to ensure the safety of both human workers and the environment. These should include rules for operating robotic systems, safety precautions for human workers in the vicinity, and emergency procedures in case of an accident.
- Use High-Quality Equipment: When deploying robotic systems in the mining industry, it’s paramount only to use high-quality equipment designed to meet the operation’s specific needs. You can do this by selecting appropriate robots for a particular task and ensuring the robots are properly maintained and regularly inspected.
- Train Operators: Robots provide several safety benefits to the mining industry but taking the necessary steps to realize those advantages is also essential. One of the ways you can help maximize the use of robots is by training your staff. This way, operators will know the proper way of handling different types of machinery, protecting their parts, thus, promoting their longevity. It also reinforces the safety of workers while they use these pieces of equipment, helping avoid accidents and injuries.
Robots provide several safety benefits to the mining industry but taking the necessary steps to realize those advantages is also essential.
2. Robots Boost Productivity
Robots significantly improve mining industry productivity because they perform tasks more quickly and efficiently than humans. For example, they automate the digging process, reducing the time it takes to mine a particular area.
Furthermore, robots are programmed to operate around the clock, meaning they can work continuously without needing breaks or rest periods. It helps reduce the time and costs required to complete a mining project.
3. Robots Enhance Accuracy
Robots help improve the accuracy of mining operations, as they can be programmed to carry out tasks with higher precision. It can be especially useful for drilling that requires extreme accuracy. Additionally, they can detect anomalies or potential problems in the mining process, which can help reduce the risk of accidents or costly mistakes.
Robots can also take accurate measurements of the mine site’s essential aspects, such as rock composition and ore grade, and detect defects in the materials being mined, ensuring they’re of the highest quality and meet all safety and quality standards.
All this can reduce the risk of accidents and improve the overall quality of mining operations.
4. Robots Help Keep The Mining Industry Environmentally-Friendly
Robots are helping the mining industry reduce its environmental impact. For example, they help reduce noise and air pollution, as they operate more quietly and without the need for exhaust fumes. As established earlier, they also reduce the need for manual labor, which lowers the mining industry’s overall carbon footprint.
Robots are becoming increasingly common in the mining industry, providing various benefits. As technology advances, the use of robots in the mining industry is expected to grow, providing new opportunities for improved efficiency and cost savings.
Displacement Of Human Workers
Although robots can offer a range of benefits to the mining industry, they also have the potential to displace human workers. As they become more advanced and widespread, they may be able to carry out tasks previously performed by humans, leading to fewer job opportunities.
Additionally, robots can do things more efficiently and accurately than humans, which could also decrease wages for miners. However, human labor is still needed in certain areas. For example, robots can still not match humans’ creativity and problem-solving skills.
In addition, certain roles in the mining industry require a human touch. For example, robots can still not interact effectively with customers or clients, making it difficult to replace human workers in customer service roles.
Robots are transforming the mining industry through improved safety, increased efficiency, and reduced environmental impact. Despite some human workers being displaced, using robots in the mining industry is becoming increasingly popular, and they’re likely to play even bigger roles in the future. As technology continues to advance, robots are something that mining companies can leverage.