Peek into the future of mining

Therese Dunphy

March 5, 2018

A new report, ‘BDO’s Energy 2020 Vision: The Near Future of Mining,’ from BDO USA LLP, an advisory, audit and assurance, and consulting company, makes some bold predictions about the future of the mining industry. While the report reads a bit like science fiction, it highlights the rapidly changing nature of mining.

Consider some of the report’s predictions and what they might mean to your operation.

  1. Mineral X. The report cites President Trump’s Dec. 20, 2017, executive order (Presidential Executive Order on a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals) as the impetus for significant new minerals exploration. It predicts that “a currently unknown mineral will become an integral part of the U.S.’s energy mix by 2020.” It suggests that mining executives should take a “drill it, and they will come” approach to mineral exploration.
  2. Mining Does the Robot. The report predicts a 10-fold increase in the amount of revenue mining companies dedicate to IT between 2015 and 2020. This, it says, will allow many U.S. mining companies to “continue to expand efforts to integrate autonomous technology by 2020.” What will this look like in mining operations? Autonomous drilling, blasting, and driving will be found in operations of the near future, they say. The report points to data from the International Institute for Sustainable Development that found driverless technology increases mining output by 15 to 20 percent while decreasing fuel and maintenance costs by 10 to 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
  3. Continued Disruptions (Not the Good Kind). This prediction falls on the bad news side of the good news/bad news nature of the group’s predictions. It says that, by 2020, more than 20 percent of mining companies in the U.S. will be the victims of a Distributed Denial of Service Attack, either directly or through an attack on the power grid. Essentially, the same technology that allows mines to gain productivity opens them up to cyberattacks. This means that development of cybersecurity must go hand-in-hand with technology implementation.

While some of these ideas seem much farther than a couple years away, they are not as far-fetched as you may believe. Innovation often takes place in the larger mining sector, then trickles into the aggregates industry. A few years ago, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek story about mining on the moon. Since then, I’ve watched demonstrations of autonomous haul trucks, seen joystick-controlled wheel loaders and dozers, and covered the development of autonomous drills. Suddenly, everything seems possible.

Just remember, technology implementation is not without its risks. If these innovations are in your near future, start scouting cybersecurity experts to hire along with your next set of mining engineers.

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