Mining has been a key industry in the US for centuries. From gold production to coal, which has been mined since the 1300s, this sector has long-been intertwined with the country's innovation and success.
Today, mining in America is a valuable industry, with the market cap for some of the major companies achieving billions. Gold producers such as Newmont, for instance, come in at around $54 billion and copper producers including Freeport McMoRan saw a market cap of $19 billion last year.
While the top 10 companies are making a healthy profit, companies in this sector have traditionally been slow to pick up new technologies. The reason for this tardiness is likely due to the fact that, in order to make major changes to current operations, there needs to be a large scale overhaul of operations, along with significant costs to cover the new tech.
But, to remain competitive and avoid the dramatically shifting commodity prices that have made the mining markets unpredictable in recent years, company owners have focused on new technologies to improve efficiency. So, what is being done to introduce these changes?
As with many other industrial applications, mining has seen the introduction of digital tech to the workplace. One area that this is most apparent is in robotics. The cost of robotic machines has fallen by half since the early 1990s, making these innovations more accessible to mining companies.
Additionally, advances in AI have made robotics more advanced, smoothly picking up key tasks in the mines. Fully autonomous equipment is being increasingly used at mines across the US, while tele remote equipment is widely used by companies to operate tools and machines. This, in turn, is streamlining operations and making mines work smoothly.
The motors used in machines are also becoming more advanced. Where once long conveyor belts ran on traditional mechanisms such as slip ring motors, now companies have switched to tools such as variable frequency drives (VFDs) to control these medium voltage motors.
The benefits of making this switch are easy to see. VFDs are more energy efficient as they can accurately control the motor speed. Operators of machines such as the conveyor belt can input the optimal speed setting, meaning that no energy is wasted.
These improved technologies also enhance productivity. Machines can run methodically and steadily throughout the day, delivering an exact number of materials thanks to machine speeds being so accurate.
Focus on analytics
Another way that mining companies are working more efficiently is by introducing analytics to assess the cost of processes. It also helps with transporting data that allows miners to minimize downtime and make full use of resources.
Additionally, analytics can assess operation costs. This means that metrics are used to measure mineral content of each shovel load to work out the grade the mined resources are at.
By making key updates, mines can become more streamlined and workforces more efficient. While these may require an initial expenditure, these new additions can be an asset.