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Plant + Mining's path
to 2050


For the mining sector, the utilization, efficiency and lifespan of plant, machinery and equipment are critical measures which predicate productivity and profitability.

With vast fleets containing multiple asset classes, spread over large areas and across multiple, remote sites; the mining sector has a harder time than most industries when it comes to getting accurate measures and then improving upon them.

Not only this and beyond the bottom-line, the plant that miners use can be hazardous. Improper usage, catastrophic failures and a myriad of other potential causes make adverse interactions with it one of the leading contributors to injuries, fatalities and environmental harm.

Over recent decades, the plant that miners have been using have been getting better and through these enhancements, the sector has been able to reduce incidents and increase efficiencies - as long as they’ve been able to fund the large capital investments necessary to purchase and then implement them.

However, we are at something of a crossroads.

Zero harm, zero carbon and zero waste measures are now strategic as well as operational imperatives. The drive to be carbon neutral by 2050 (or sooner), the minimization of environmental harm and ability to prove stewardship credentials, as well as the need to achieve zero workforce fatalities, are forcing miners to look at their entire operations in order to find the improvements that are going to enable them to achieve these goals, profitably.

Plant is no exception and the ascent to 2050 dictates that mining companies need to take affirmative, extensive action with their plant now rather than relying on OEMs and hardware manufacturers to innovate in order to get them there.

Pivotal in achieving these strategic and operational goals will be the application of novel plant solutions with the deployment of sustainability solutions and Industry 4.0 technologies that can deliver all-new data-led insights that uncover the hidden optimizations which already exist and that can leverage the power of AI and machine learning to seize all-new ones.

Whilst challenging, there are huge advantages to be seen on the other side, with predictive analyses that can do much more than achieve the zero goals outlined but deliver all-new ways of working and find efficiencies that increase profitability.

The COVID lesson.

Many miners have already embraced automation and novel ‘smart mining’ technologies. Amongst them, Rio Tinto boasts driver-less fleets, Fortescue has put in place remote payload monitoring, and Vale now operates autonomous trucks*.

These are not isolated examples but what they all have in common was that they came about through longer-term projects that were steadily developed and implemented over time - COVID-19 forced many miners to move faster.

The inability to have FIFO personnel rotating on site nor have specialist expertise in the field meant that miners rapidly had to implement new work from home capabilities, set-up remote and secondary control rooms and operational centers, as well as further leverage the abilities of autonomous fleets to undertake new roles if their operations weren’t to grind to a halt.

This did not happen and in 2020, when many industries were being hammered financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, net profits amongst miners rose by 15% and market capitalization increased by 64%, and 2021 is expected to be an even bigger boon - with revenue expected to increase by 29% and profits 68%†.

Whilst the long-term impact of the pandemic is far from certain, the process of change that it has begun feels unstoppable. Many of the lessons learned during the COVID pandemic, the technologies implemented via necessity, and knowledge and skills gained by workforces has enabled the sector to jump forward on its path to achieving Industry 4.0 status.

Immediate efficiency savings, utilization improvements and enhancements in both environmental and workforce safety can be simply and rapidly achieved through the further adoption of intelligent sustainability solutions built on Sustainability Performance Platforms (SPP) that harness the power of machine learning to analyze large data sets (in real-time) and then direct manual optimizations or AI-led interventions.

When it comes to plant, miners are able to analyze individual asset performance based on all of the potential variables that go into its operation, drill-down and identify individual assets (or individuals) that might be causing operational problems today, predict those that will tomorrow, and provide decision-makers with a true single source of truth and the means to analyze and de-risk their operations like never before - all in real-time.

Not only this, but the technology also enables the sector to integrate all real-time and historical data sources (and leverage new ones); guarantee data completeness and accuracy via machine learning; and then apply adaptive and predictive analytics to give senior-management the insights they need to design a roadmap to 2050.


I4 Mining is a sustainability technology provider to the mining sector, offering ready-to-deploy ESG solutions that help miners to succeed both strategically and operationally without ever getting in the way of good business.

Our solutions enable you to easily develop strategies, deliver accurate sustainability metrics and reports in real-time, improve sustainability and business performance, as well as make predictive analytics and forecasts part of your everyday so that you can reduce risks and optimise from mine-to-market.

Speak to us today to book a demo and discover how you can get started on your digital sustainability journey.


* Sources: Source: https://www.industryweek.com/technology-and-iiot/article/22026902/how-iiot-is-changing-mining and http://www.vale.com/brasil/EN/initiatives/innovation/industria-40/Pages/default.aspx
† Source: PwC: Mine 2021


Phillip McBride

CSO & Technologist @ Rayven

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