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a vast and highly profitable industry, mining does face an increasing number of
pressures, particularly around environmental, social, and climate issues. With
this in mind, the industry understands technology's importance in its survival
Equinix Mining Technology Report 2021-22 revealed that mining companies invest
heavily in connectivity, telecommunications, automation, and data technology. A
survey carried out as part of the report found that 93% are increasing overall
spending on technology, and 44% reported they are significantly increasing
With the industry making active steps to increase the use of technology in mining, it got us thinking about how certain positions have evolved due to technology and what the future looks like in these roles. We look into the following topics:
Understanding the increased use of technology in senior-level mining jobs will help prepare our candidates to take the next step in their careers. A crucial starting point for this discussion is the history of the role of technology in the advancement of mining jobs.
The mining industry adapting to technology runs throughout the history of the sector. For example, if we take a step back into the early days of mining, shafts used to be dug out by hand or using stone-based tools, making the task highly laborious. Eventually, these basic tools were replaced by fire, which involved piling heaps of logs near the rock face and burning them until the rock became weak and fractured.
forward to the late Middle Ages, when miners began using explosives made from
black powder to break up large rocks. In the mid-19th century, black powder was
replaced by dynamite, which was much more effective.
Industrial Revolution between 1750 and 1840 saw further advancements in mining
equipment and explosives. Mechanical drills, powered by pistons, helped
increase the effectiveness and capability of mining hard rock. In addition,
electric mine cars, vehicles, and conveyors replaced hand-powered loading and
hauling devices. Finally, gas and battery-powered lamps were replaced with
oil-wick lamps and candles.
more recent technological advancement is the rise of autonomous vehicles
replacing human-operated vehicles. These vehicles were introduced in 2008 when
Rio Tinto Alcan began testing the world's first commercial autonomous mining
haulage system in the Pilbara iron mine in Western Australia. Some critical
advantages of the use of autonomous vehicles are as follows:
Recent figures around autonomous vehicles show that the technology continues to be embraced by the industry and will be a significant part of its future. For example, between May 2021 and May 2022, the number of autonomous haul trucks in operation worldwide rose from 769 to 1,068, an increase of 39%. This figure is expected to reach 1,800 by the end of 2025.
In our recent blog, 'Evolving Mining Technology and the Growing Need to Attract Talent to the Mining Industry,' we discussed the latest technological developments in the mining industry, how they are helping it advance, and how this evolution is creating challenges around attracting talent.
As you can see from history, mining is not afraid of adapting to the times and using technology to its advantage. So next, let's look at three roles that have fully embraced technology and are helping drive the industry into the modern age.
Mine planning engineers are in high demand, mainly due to the pressures for mines to reduce their impact on the environment whilst remaining productive and profitable.
Mining planning is the mixture of mine design and the organisation of mining activities. Mine design aims to develop a mine site that allows for reserve exploitation in an economical, safe, and environmentally responsible manner. The design will include the following:
scheduling is concerned with the organisation of operations and the correct
assignment of people and equipment to ensure that production targets are
companies want to maximise profits while committing to keeping their sites safe
and reducing environmental effects. However, many constraints that mining sites
experience are not always known at any given time, and many can change
unpredictably over time. The uncertainty around restrictions creates risk,
creating complexities for mine operations. Mine planning identifies
short-term and long-term risks and finds appropriate, safe, and cost-effective
solutions to ensure the smooth running of the mine's operations over its life
we take a look at three key technologies which are vital to the short and
long-term planning of a mine and are becoming a staple of an engineer's
Intelligence - OI is used when operators and
engineers want to digitise parts of their operations to gain real-life insights
into all mining operations and initiate data-based decisions. An example of its
use is the digitalisation of dynamic assets such as workers and vehicles to
visualise their behaviour. OI software can collect this data and provide
recommendations to help improve efficiency, safety, and productivity.
- Drones can perform various mining activities, from mapping exploration,
surveying, ensuring safety, and increasing security. They have proven to be a
significant success as they increase data collection and improve productivity
Drones can quickly provide accurate and comprehensive information on mine conditions, site safety management, surveying and mapping, and stockpile management.
have been hugely advantageous to engineers, as they can collect data twenty
times faster than traditional methods carried out by personnel on the ground.
As a result, they have allowed engineers to make well-informed decisions
sooner. In addition, drones' aerial photography and high-resolution imagery are
far more advanced and accurate than traditional mine mapping and
Planning Software - This software provides mining
companies with a quick, accurate, efficient, and cost-effective tool to manage
their global business interests. Today, virtually every aspect of mining uses
planning software. For example, the software can estimate the financial return
of a mineral deposit, find solutions for land rehabilitation after mine
closure, and manage the infrastructure needed for mineral and metal extraction.
Furthermore, as mining projects need substantial investment, the main advantage
of using the software is that it can lower costs for production and
Mine planning engineers are very much at the forefront of the rise of technology in the industry, and these advancements will continue to support them in their day-to-day roles. Next, let’s look at their key responsibilities:
Mine planning engineers are required to hold a degree in a subject such as mining engineering, geology, or civil engineering. Having an advanced degree is advantageous and necessary for some positions. Engineers are also expected to have crucial skills, including:
Machine learning is a type of computer science, and artificial intelligence focused on using algorithms and data to emulate how humans learn. Machine learning is present in all aspects of our daily life, from chatbots to Netflix suggestions to how your social media feeds are predicted.
Machine learning has also helped to revolutionise the mining industry, and engineers are leaders in driving its benefits. Here are five key advantages of machine learning to the industry:
Machine learning engineers are responsible for creating these algorithms and programmes that allow machines to take action without the need for human direction. In addition, a vital part of the role is that engineers allow computers to have the ability to learn automatically and improve from experiences without the need for a person to programme them.
primary responsibilities of machine learning engineers are as followings:
employers will expect a machine learning engineer to hold a Master's degree or
a PhD in a relevant discipline. These disciplines include engineering,
mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Furthermore, the majority of
employers will seek extensive experience in computer programming.
Data science is booming, with career opportunities in virtually all industries. Mining is no exception, and recent activity and investment in the profession have shown that the industry realises the importance of its role in its future. For example, in 2019, the Australian Government announced a $7.67m investment to fund two mining research centres. The then-Education Minister Dan Tehan commented:
centres will help Australia's mining industry better use data to make evidence-based
decisions that lead to more efficient operations,"
These research centres aimed to train the 'next generation' of data scientists and engineers in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and advanced sensor systems to increase the value of mining and the processing of resources.
The use of data analytics has been growing in importance. The insights gained from data collection can identify new markets, increase productivity, save money, drive innovation, save time, solve problems, and improve health and safety. So let's take a look at a selection of mining activities in which data is helping to improve:
The increasing importance of data within mining means that roles such as data scientists will remain in high demand. So, let's look at some of the main responsibilities of a data scientist:
Data scientists are required to have a Bachelor's degree in fields such as computer science, statistics, engineering, or mathematics. An advanced degree is also a bonus. They are also required to have technical knowledge in areas including the following:
mining is a global industry, a career as a data scientist can take you
worldwide, working in the mines in fascinating countries. Your role will be
vital to the advancement of the mining industry well into the future.
Mining is an industry which stretches back thousands of years, but year by year, it continues to grow, advance, and be a fundamental part of our way of life. The advancements in technology and its plans to become a more sustainable industry mean that it has an exciting future ahead of it, and you could be part of it.
a specialist mining recruitment agency, we are passionate about placing
senior-level talent in positions within the global industry. If you want more
information about how we can support you in taking the next steps in your
mining career, visit our dedicated mining, metals, and minerals page.