Technological advancements taking place in parallel with the growing attention to ESG issues, and all these will affect mineworkers and the mining industry in the coming years. Technological advancements include automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and robotics.
A new report by digital transformation service business idoba explores and global crowdsourcing platform Wikistrat tries to find out the future of work and workers in the mining industry. They found that industry leaders must act now to be well prepared for the changes due to ESG issues and technological developments.
The report is based on a simulation the companies ran from August 18 to August 25, 2021. During this period, experts from other industries and disciplines and 28 professionals from within the mining industry came together for the future of the workers in the mining industry to create 30 scenarios in the upcoming decade. They focused on the impact of three main drivers: technology, people and society.
On the technology front, the experts suggested that AI is considered at the forefront of workplace safety with the increased use of robotics. Investments in technology regarding data and safeguarding is still not a place, thus slowing down the move into automation. In improving safety, AI is already being used.
The mining industry is already impacted by AI and the use of wearable helping to create a safer work environment. In real-time many companies are now monitoring their workers. They can now watch when a worker is working in a fatigued state, experiencing blood pressure or heart issues, risk of dehydration. To prevent an incident from occurring, alerts are given, or machines are shut down.
As per the document, another way to increase production and productivity is through increased gamification. At present, such practices are followed to simulate situations that require a new way of approaching a legacy issue or a new way of working. Long cycle times can be seen in the mining industry, and failure learning can be expensive, dangerous or not an option at all. They can try new ideas in an environment and test different working methods by simulating the work situation in an environment where safety and failure are not an issue.
The next phase of this will focus on mines maintenance and automation. This should lead to improved production and cost reduction. This trend will take a while to become widespread. As per the experts, the industry is not well-prepared for this development. The fully automated mines will require to rethink the whole process, and for small and medium mines, the cost of such technologies may be a limiting factor.
Disputes could be prompted because of the reduced need for labor. Mitigation strategies for the reduced demand for human labour need to be developed. Leaders in the industry seem to be unprepared for what will happen when operator-type jobs disappear. There could be backlash for mining companies as many jobs will be lost, particularly in those communities heavily reliant on the industry.
When it comes to environmental issues, the industry leaders said the focus on ESG will continue to evolve and become more important for all mining. They believe that through technology, they can create transparency in the actual environmental cost of production. Innovative ways to improve the current impacts of mining on the environment can also be provided due to technology usage.