Infographic: Visualizing the Potential of Smart Mining
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Visualizing the Potential of Smart Mining

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Visualizing the Potential of Smart Mining

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Mining has traditionally been depicted with pack mules, pickaxes, and rugged prospectors.

However, it may surprise you to learn that today’s mining industry is precisely the opposite in almost every respect. It’s high-tech, efficient, and safe.

This is partially because modern mining companies are deploying the latest in sensor and cloud technology. These connected mines are improving the extraction process and workers’ safety while also boosting productivity.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Natural Resources Canada and discusses how this sensor and cloud technology can be integrated into the extractive process.

What is Smart Mining?

A connected mine uses data from sensor technology to effectively manage underground and pit mining operations.

“Any mining operation today will have in the thousands or hundreds of thousands of sensors capturing in real time a vast swath of data.”

– Mukani Moyo, McKinsey Senior Expert (Source)

From a single application on a mobile device, supervisors at mine sites can now receive alerts via SMS, email or in-app notifications. This helps them react to critical problems in real-time and maximize productivity.

In addition, advanced data analytics can be applied to the raw data to create insights, visualizations, and recommendations. This information is delivered to mine managers and employees in real-time on their mobile devices.

Case Study: Smart Solutions in Practice

Dundee Precious Metals was one of the first companies to bring wireless networks into an underground mine. The company used RFID and Wi-Fi to monitor the location of equipment and people. The networks also allowed personnel to stay connected to the surface.

Once the networks were installed, communication was reliable and instantaneous – even almost 2,000 feet underground at the bottom of the mine. Workers could bring laptops and smartphones into the mine to stay connected to personnel and software on the surface.

With an RFID chip on every vehicle, machine, and person, managers can see the location of everyone and everything in the mine. This helps prevent accidents and breakdowns, and streamlines operations in real-time.

There are also environmental and cost-saving benefits. Using location data, an automated ventilation system can respond and minimize energy consumption.

Fans turn on and off as miners enter or leave an area. In addition, fan speeds adjust when machines or vehicles are running nearby to ensure that emissions are properly vented. This could drastically reduce a mine’s energy requirements.

Changing the Nature of Work: Remote Working

These smart mining solutions are reducing the risks miners face and creating new opportunities for a tech-savvy generation.

Remote mine locations that revolve around shift work can place stress on workers and their families. With a connected infrastructure, mine employees and managers can monitor operations at a distant office.

There will always be a need for workers on site, but connected technology can create some town-based career opportunities and help stabilize families.

A Sustainable Future for Mining

This is just the beginning.

Over time, data from sensor technology and cloud software, will reveal insights that could help develop sustainable mining operations.

By minimizing their negative impacts, mining companies will be able to responsibly deliver the materials the modern world needs.

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Energy

Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

Wealthy countries consume large amounts of natural resources per capita, and the U.S. is no exception. See how much is used per person.

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Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

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Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and the United States is no exception.

According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.

Materials We Need to Build

Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.

As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.

Material/Fossil FuelPounds Per Person
Stone10,643
Natural Gas9,456
Sand, Gravel7,088
Petroleum Products 6,527
Coal 3,290
Cement724
Other Nonmetals569
Salt359
Iron Ore239
Phosphate Rock 166
Sulfur66
Potash49
Soda Ash36
Bauxite (Aluminum)24
Other Metals 21
Copper13
Lead11
Zinc6
Manganese4
Total 39,291

The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.

Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.

Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These rarer metals can make a big economic difference even when their uses are more concentrated and isolated—for example, palladium (primarily used in catalytic converters) costs $54 million per tonne.

Fuels Powering our Lives

Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2021

Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.

In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.

Reliance on Other Countries

Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.

In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.

However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact, and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.

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