Digital Technology transforming the mining sector
One of the key differences between the economic developments in Australia and the rest of the western economies has been its two-tiered phenomenon. Nationally the country was saved from the GFC by the mining boom, but the rest of the economy was heavily affected by the general slump in world finances.
A potential downside for Australia is that its excellent national economy exacerbated the effect of the GFC for the other sectors because of the high dollar. Australia is now one of the most expensive markets in the world, and this is reflected in consumer goods, housing, tourism and so on.
A greater than average effort will be needed from Australian businesses to overcome this cost disadvantage and one of the few tools available to them is ICT. The reason Australia’s productivity and competitiveness has fallen over in the last five years is that the GFC forced other countries to start reforming in order to take cost out of the economies. Australia did not have this need and now the country is running behind in many of the global economic developments.
Digital productivity is still not promoted as a key element in the transformation of the economy.
Interestingly, mining is one of the critical sectors that now needs to look at this economic transformation. Massive investments were made during the boom and in many cases money was not an issue. This, however, has changed. In order to be ready for the next cycle the mining industry will have to quickly reduce costs and make preparations to remain competitive against others in the global markets.
So what does digital productivity mean for the mining sector, and how can it use ICT to transform itself? One of the developments that we have highlighted in earlier reports is the use of M2M in, for instance, automatic vehicles. Safety – reducing costly accidents and incidents – is another area where sensors are going to play a key role.
It is not unthinkable that entire underground mining operations could become remotely operated as new imaging and drilling techniques, linked again to sensory infrastructure, is evolving. Similar techniques can also be used to better pinpoint valuable minerals and this will reduce the enormous amount of waste material that is included in traditional mining operations, plus the costs associated with that.
Similar ICT tools are explored for use in prospecting, allowing this to be carried out more effectively.
In short, expect the mining industry to make a serious effort in coming years to increase its productivity so as to be prepared for the next cycle.
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