Mining Innovation, The Mine of the Future
Nowadays, more than ever, production-driven industries such as mining, are easily impacted by technology shifts that can result in a rapid loss of competitiveness. Thus, the continuous development of technology and applied innovation is essential in the mining industry in order to stay relevant and competitive during the following decade. For the mining industry to survive, innovating today is crucial for maintaining high levels of growth, productivity, and sustainability.
The Concept of Applied Innovation
The innovation formula considered for industry applications including mining is based on a simple concept: the creation, transfer, and enhancement of information or knowledge (k). The first function in the innovation equation, is data acquisition which translates to the creation and transfer of information or knowledge (k) through time (t). The second function is the enhancement of the gained knowledge, and the third function is applying the enhanced knowledge in order to solve or improve a given condition such as an existing system (s), service (v), or product (p). Following is a simplified knowledge-based innovation equation (Nieto, 2019):
([Creation (k) + Transfer (k)] + Enhancement (k) + Application (k) × t = Innovation (s,v,p)
The Mining Innovation Model
The mining innovation model can be applied to any type of industry including the mining industry, regardless of the mining method used or commodity being extracted.
The model is designed to clearly indicate what those key technologies are that need to be considered today based on five ultimate operational conditions—innovation drivers—that will be critical in the mining industry of the future. As seen in figure 1 above the five operational conditions are (1) achieving maximum safety, (2) simplifying systems, (3) using smart-intelligent solutions, (4) designing stealth operations, and (5) following a sustainable strategy. These five innovation drivers are thus common denominators to any mining industry regardless of their operational nature today and in the future.
The five innovation drivers have been carefully defined as the result of several years of teaching, research, and consulting for the mining industry and are carefully selected to be applicable to any type of mining operation: metal or nonmetal, underground or surface, and soft-rock or hard-rock mining.
It is thus envisioned that the innovation model introduced in this article can serve as an initial guideline for the mining industry to identify those technologies that need to be addressed today to ultimately achieve the five operational conditions to effectively operate the “mine of the future.”