Robotics and automation will reduce mining employment by about 50% by 2030 (Next Big – November 4, 2016)

Economist, lawyers and sustainable investment studies at the International Institute for Sustainable Development have a paper that looks at the mining industry. They look at how automation will effect mining jobs.

Given the fundamental uncertainty and longterm nature of automation technologies, we do not focus on them in this study, instead assessing new technologies that arebeing piloted today, which will be carried forward in the near-to-medium term. These technologies include:

1. Autonomous haul trucks and loaders: One person alone can already remotely operate a small fleet of these autonomous trucks. Improvements in software are likely to allow this to be performed even more efficiently by algorithm-driven computer programs. Driverless technology can lead to a 15 to 20 per cent increase in output, a 10 to 15 per cent decrease in fuel consumption and an 8 per cent decrease in maintenance costs.

2. Autonomous long-distance haul trains: Technologies are being piloted that allow long-haul trains carrying bulk commodities to run fully automated from the mine site to the port.

3. Tele-remote ship-loaders: Fitted with video cameras, thermal imagers, lasers and sensors, tele-remote shiploaders are operated from a control room with a line-of-sight view. This type of automotive technology is unlikely to have an adverse net impact on employment, given that the operator is just moved from the cabin of the ship-loader to the control room, but the skill set changes.

4. Semi-autonomous crushers, rock breakers and shovel swings: These machines reduce the size of large rocks and scoop up the ore at the location of extraction. The mobile crusher performs two tasks simultaneously as it transfers the crushed rock directly for processing via conveyors, eliminating the need for haul trucks within a mine.

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