The global mining industry is currently under pressure. The industry is in the midst of the largest mining super cycle since the Second World War. Mining companies face increasing challenges to profitability due to unfavourable commodity prices as well as increasingly tougher mining conditions, rising pressure from various stakeholders and numerous other mining challenges. Incremental improvements are no longer sufficient enough to sustain the mining sector, which explains why many leading organisations are rallying behind the innovation imperative that calls for major transformation. This is especially true with the impending technological revolution, where innovation will be the key to survival. This not only holds true for the mining industry, but for nearly all companies, businesses, organisations and governments worldwide.
In the upcoming technological age, the line distinguishing different businesses and operations will become increasingly unclear. It is therefore vital to approach innovation from a holistic point of view. One driver to improve the innovation efforts of an organisation is to look at technology trends across various industries. Many technologies exist, or are in development, that may be applied to be used (or be modified and applied) in the mining industry. With the rapid rate of technological advancement world-wide, it is also important for the mining industry to remain aware of cross-sectorial innovations that may have an impact in future. This is especially true when it comes to exponential and disruptive technologies.
Operational performance excellence relies on the innovative use of such technologies and to remain abreast with developments that may add value to a given component within the mining cycle. As a result, the mining industry will be increasingly focused on integrating all activities across the value chain. This includes the continued introduction and development of Integrated Remote Operating Centres, mechanisation and automation. Such technological advances and implementations in mining form part of the modernisation drive currently taking place in the South African mining industry. However, in order to accomplish such value-added end-goals the constituent technologies need to be evaluated in detail. From these and many other technologies, mining operations can also achieve multiple other benefits and "quick wins".
While investigating these technological trends it was found that many different organisations, businesses, institutions and individuals conduct great amounts of research to identify technologies that are applicable, or potentially relevant, to mining. Often these studies complete the same research for the initial phases, prior to focussing in more depth on specific technologies. As a result, a need was identified for research in technologies that may add value to mining. By identifying starting points for further studies and R&D into specific technological solutions, many of these initial research phases may potentially be eliminated or reduced.
The greater part of the mining industry is often not aware of emerging technologies that could potentially add value to their operations, or which may disrupt aspects of their business or even their daily lives. The impact or benefit of technologies has to be assessed in order to gain an understanding of how opportunities could be exploited or detrimental impacts negated. In doing so, an organisation may work towards enhancing its operational risk management strategies, minimise negative consequences from external technological factors, and identify potential improvements to an operation or the organisation as a whole.
It is therefore vital for companies and individual operations to have access to a platform that can provide technology related information which needs to be accounted for. For this reason, a Technology Map was created that highlights technologies that may further be analysed in order to identify those technologies with sufficient potential to add value. The structure of the Technology Map was developed to include the main value drivers within the entire mining cycle, covering the exploration-, mine evaluation-, mine design-, operations-, and mine closure to post-closure mining phases. Various technologies, ranging from physical to digital technologies, were analysed. Those with potential to add value, or which need to be accounted for in order to avoid detrimental impacts, were slotted into the sub-categories, processes, activities, focus areas or specific challenges beneath the applicable value drivers throughout the mining cycle.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2016.