Mining’s changing imperatives
In the mining industry, “purpose” has become an increasingly critical factor for a variety of stakeholders.
Consumers are demanding responsibly sourced products from companies that provide fair and safe employment for their workforce, while looking after the environment and the communities in which they operate. Investors too are seeing value in behavior that leads to less risk and more reward—and they are becoming less willing to invest in companies that don’t measure up.
These pressures are evident in the growing demand for companies to assess their performance against a Triple Bottom Line—one that measures social, environmental and financial performance. At the same time, the traditional pressures to be efficient and cost-competitive are still very much in force. Autonomous operations have the potential to succeed on both fronts.
Autonomous mining operations: A broader view
As self-driving vehicles continue to mature, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless connectivity become more widespread, the mining industry has shown a growing interest in automating haul trucks and other mobile equipment. Today, a number of companies have fleets of autonomous trucks, trains and loaders at mine sites, or are piloting the use of these vehicles.
These efforts are a great leap forward from traditional practices, but they are just scratching the surface of how autonomous systems can be used in mining. Most of the industry’s autonomous initiatives focus on individual pieces of equipment and are, for many, still in the early stages with just three percent of mobile equipment in the industry being autonomous.
In Accenture’s view, autonomous mine operations can and will go much further.
Perhaps the fullest example of autonomy at work is a Resolute Mining operation in Mali. The entire production operation—drilling, charging, blasting, loading and trucking—is carried out via an autonomous system. This has reduced the cost of gold production by $135 per ounce and cut mining costs by 30 percent.
While the example above is relatively isolated, it provides a sense of the potential value that autonomous operations could deliver.