The future of mining is going underground. That is true for a number of reasons including the fact that there are fewer and fewer significant amounts of metals and minerals close to the surface. But it is also true because underground mining has proven to leave a significantly lower environmental footprint. The third reason why underground mining is growing in popularity is because the new underground mining technology makes it both safer and more cost-effective.
Underground mining technology helps mining companies bridge the digital divide between surface mines and underground mines. Their goal is to create a safe working environment that leads to better productivity and operational efficiencies. This is being accomplished through the Internet and the latest analytic technology which allows them to monitor underground operations, including their people, machines and the surrounding environment.
1. Improving performance in underground mining
There is no doubt that underground mining technologies are playing a significant role in improving performance and processes. This is resulting in both higher productivity and lower operating costs. Every new underground technology helps the mining companies to identify and eliminate hazards, enhance equipment performance and improve the bottom line.
When they introduce these new underground mining technology elements they also work to minimize and mitigate any potential new hazards in the underground mining workplace. They do this by focusing first on employee safety and then ensure that any possible trade-offs between productivity and occupational risks are properly managed. They evaluate the implications of any technological changes on worker health and safety, and implement adequate mitigation strategies.
2. What’s the latest in underground mining technology?
There have been many new developments in underground mining technology that have helped to increase worker safety as well as reducing costs and increasing productivity underground. That includes autonomous loading and hauling as well as the move to fully automated underground mining vehicles. Here is one of the latest trends in underground mining technology: teleoperation.
There has always been an element of remote operation in underground mining, but in the past that has been limited because remote operators cannot drive the vehicles as fast as a real driver and they don’t pick up all the information that a real person would. But underground mining technology is helping to improve that and are now focusing on further automating this aspect of the operation. That has meant great strides forward in improved safety, higher productivity and lower maintenance costs.
The new systems and equipment which is based on the robotic arms for NASA’s space shuttles offers advanced guidance and control technology that senses tunnel walls and enables the underground mining vehicles to travel through the mine without the need for human input.
4. Benefits of underground mining technology
There are many benefits that come directly from the adoption of new underground mining technologies. Underground mining technologies are helping to develop early detection of hazards, proximity warning and collision avoidance, better safety for lone workers and improved evacuation and rescue systems. They are not only making the underground mining environment safer, but more productive as well.
These include new engines specifically designed to work underground that reduce emissions, on-demand systems that will improve air quality, and fire suppression systems to reduce risks associated with fires in ultra-deep mining situations or fires that occur as a result of new technology. New underground mining technologies are also being introduced that will facilitate traffic control and prevent vehicular collisions, as well as proximity detection devices and cameras on equipment to reduce risks associated with mobile and other equipment in the underground mining environment.