Mining companies betting on autonomous technology to make dangerous jobs safer – by Amanda Stephenson (CBC News Calgary/Canadian Press – June 25, 2023)

Powerful tech allowing companies to remove human labour from underground work

Forget about the canary in the coal mine — experts say the day is coming when there won’t even be a need for a human. The global mining industry has come a long way since the days when coal-blackened miners would carry a bird underground with them in hopes its distress would alert them to the presence of toxic gases.

Today, companies are employing everything from driverless haul trucks to remote-controlled and robotic drilling machines to remove human labour from some of their most hazardous operations.

Saskatoon-based Nutrien Ltd. — which has been working to develop tele-remote technology at its network of six potash mines in Saskatchewan — successfully mined an entire production wing at its underground Lanigan site last fall without a single human setting foot in the area.

Using a combination of radar, cameras, advanced sensing systems and cutting-edge technologies powered by artificial intelligence, Nutrien was able to operate one of its massive potash boring machines from a control room a few hundred metres away from the active mining face. “It was just a huge success for us,” said Shannon Rhynold, Nutrien’s vice-president of potash engineering, technology and capital.

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