The mining sector continues to be disrupted by a myriad number of forces and global issues: the Covid-19 pandemic, the global digital shift, accelerating technological advancement, environmental shifts, social awareness, and politics are a few. The way the industry operates is fast changing in response, and it’s only reasonable to assume that mining will continue to change and reshape itself in the future in response to these factors.

But what will these changes look like? Industry leaders and experts have a few predictions.

Top predictions for mining’s future:

  1. Digital technologies such as AI and AR will become commodified
    They will present opportunities for income for mining firms as it becomes an increasingly valued asset for investors due to its ability to enhance mineral extraction operations.

  2. Rise in adoption of and experimentation with disruptive technologies by mining companies. Mining corporations will increasingly experiment with leveraging digital tech to meet their target Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings and apply it to enhance various aspects of their operations, from mineral tracking to improving safety in mines. Digital technologies that will be increasingly applied in the mining sector include Advanced Analytics, Big Data Analytics, Cloud Technologies, Machine Learning, Autonomous Vehicles, AI Assistants, Industrial Robotics, and Smart Sensors.

  3. Outsourcing will become the norm. Consultants from outsourcing companies will be the first choice for mining firms as opposed to in-house talent when it comes to running mining operations, and mining corporations will adapt their managerial systems and models in a way that accommodates this. Outsourcing is increasingly favoured in mining as an alternative to hiring permanent employees due to the access it gives companies to a wide range of specialists, at short notice, with no long-term commitment and costs. This gives companies flexibility with their finances which is valuable in a climate of uncertainty like the one the world is currently facing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

  4. Efforts to decarbonise mining means there will be a boom in electric vehicle sales as a solution to lowering mine companies’ reliance on fossil fuels when extracting minerals. Electric vehicle orders are already growing and are projected to explode in the next few years. However, the high production of electric vehicles will require an equally high production of metals such as lithium, nickel, copper, and cobalt that are needed to make the vehicles. This will have its own set of environmental impacts and grow the market for these metals.

  5. Mining firms will become more transparent about what they do. As support for mining drops globally, mining companies will share more with local communities and the world at large about the ins and outs of their operations than they have done in order to garner support from the public and gain investment to inject capital into the sector. As well as this, transparency of mining firms will allow traders in mined commodities to provide information to their buyers about these goods, such as the processes used to mine them, how they adhere to ESG standards, and so on.

  6. Mines will include local communities in plans and decision-making, due to pressure from their stakeholders, the public, and the workers. Communities that live near and are affected by mining sites or developments will continue to be treated as partners by mining companies, which will have a high level of interaction with them, share their profits with them, and include them in consultation about plans and operations in mines.

  7. Remote work is a path to greater, and even complete, automation in mines. Leveraging advanced digital technologies to improve automation in order to make remote work possible is indeed advancing automation technologies and processes. As a result, industry experts predict all mechanical mining processes, from drilling to blasting, to become more and more automated over the course of the next decade. Some examples of can be seen with global mining leaders implementing, adopting, and setting up Remote Operations Centers (ROC’s) and Autonomous Operations, Advanced Analytics, Integrated Platforms, and more.

  8. The public will have a greater ability than governments to successfully pressure mining firms into making certain changes, such as adapting their operations to fit with ESG standards – and in influencing the markets in which mining operates. An article from Mining Global says that the push from the public will make changes in the mining sector ‘faster, less expected, harsher’.

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