As the global demand for natural resources remains significant, mining will continue booming to meet the increased demands and fill supply chain requirements.
With increased reliance on digital technology and automation, the mining industry is becoming synced with cutting-edge AI and remote technology including wireless network mining practices. New technology also contributes to safer monitoring and maintenance practices in large-scale mining operations.
In this article, we’ll explore what the future of the mining sector looks like including current challenges facing the sector as well as the many recent notable mining innovations and how they have improved economic growth. Finally, we will review and chart how these mining innovations will shape the future of the mining sector for years to come.
The Future of the Mining Sector
As the demand for raw materials continues to grow, the mining sector will continue to expand to meet it. But as the industry expands, the mining sector will also need to address rising challenges by creating scalable solutions that can solve contemporary issues facing the growing mining industry. Following, we’ll discuss the factors fueling the growth of the mining sector as well as the contemporary challenges facing the industry.
Factors Fueling Continuing Growth of the Mining Sector
The mining sector is on track for growth in the coming years despite ongoing challenges. Let’s take a look at what makes the mining industry set for expansion in the coming years.
Meeting Increased Demands
As of 2023, the mining sector is currently valued at $944.1 billion. Ongoing high demands for products and goods, including technological products, mean that the demand for raw materials continues to be high. As industrial production increases capacity and manufacturing facilities expand capacity, the mining sector also grows to meet the increased demands.
Raw materials extracted by the mining sector are key for operational growth, manufacturing, and utility operation. As each of these sectors grows, the demand for extraction and distribution of raw materials continues to grow as well, which means ongoing growth for the mining sector, even despite threats of a widespread economic downturn in the coming year.
36% of business owners reported concerns about how inflation would impact their business in the year to come. Given the continuing demand for manufactured goods, the mining sector (which supplies the raw materials for manufactured products as well as the energy for urban infrastructures) should remain stable even in the face of inflation and other economic factors.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in ongoing uncertainty in terms of the European energy supply. Since Europe has historically depended on Russian extraction as a primary source of coal, natural gas, and oil, this shift in dependence will represent a point of growth for the international mining industry. As European countries seek new sources of these materials to power their nations, global mining companies stand to profit.
Contemporary Challenges Facing the Mining Sector
In addition to ongoing health, safety, and supply chain concerns, there are several specific factors affecting the mining industry in today’s global climate.
Exhausted Mineral Resource Supplies
One of the major issues facing mining companies today is that low-risk areas that offer top-tier mineral resources are being used up. This means that mining companies will have to adjust, either by moving deeper into higher-risk frontier areas or by adopting and mastering cutting-edge technologies that can streamline both extraction and also processing.
High-risk frontier mining areas have previously presented an economic risk for companies and for investors, who are typically reluctant to support unstable ventures in potentially dangerous areas. The majority of traders today can trade on the go directly from their smartphones, with 55% of traders preferring trading from their smartphones (rather than desktop computers), mining companies will want to avoid exposing investors to unnecessary risks.
The associated risks have made these areas less profitable and therefore not economically viable for most mining companies. Given the cost factors, it seems likely that most mining companies will turn towards technological advancements as a way of adapting to changing resource availability going forward.
Every mine—almost without exception—uses huge amounts of energy in its regular daily operations, therefore producing a huge carbon footprint. Power generators, trucks, and diggers all use diesel fuel, creating high levels of carbon emissions. Moving products to and from the mine and transporting waste also contribute to high carbon emissions.
According to McKinsey reports, mining is currently responsible for between 4-7% of the world’s total carbon emissions. New technology is needed to continue to address the climate-related concerns surrounding the mining industry.
Notable Mining Innovations
Automation, digitalization, efficiency, and sustainability are key trends driving technological innovations in the mining field. Let’s take a look at each of these developing trends and the resulting mining innovations, and how they address the issues facing the mining sector today.
Automation and Digitalization in Mining
Automation and digitalization lead to more efficient mining practices, cutting back on waste and providing more targeted mining. Digital innovations that optimize cutting-edge technologies including drones, AI, sensors, the Internet of Things, digital twins, augmented reality, and extended reality provide mine operators with tools that minimize worker danger and risk, improve operational efficiency, cut back on costs of both labor and equipment and reduce the amount of time it takes to set up a mining operation.
Improving Sustainability With Tech Innovations
Since the majority of mining operations’ carbon emissions stem from the reliance on diesel fuel, electric-powered vehicles are providing a more sustainable model for reducing mining carbon emissions going forward. Electric tractors, diggers, and transporters are beginning to replace traditional diesel fuel models to help reduce the carbon footprints of mining sites and bring the technology up to date.
Researchers are developing technological advancements for more sophisticated in-situ mining methods like leaching, recovery, and bio-mining. Leaching is a process that involves drilling straight into a deposit of copper or uranium and extracting the minerals through boreholes in the site. Bio-mining uses fungi or prokaryotes to extract metal from solid materials like ores.
These alternative in-situ mining tactics aim to generate zero waste in the extraction process. As the technology continues to develop towards enhanced permeability and advanced management of mine hydrogeology, these tactics will grow closer to reaching their zero waste goals.
Industry developers are also working to cut down the inefficiency and high costs of labor and operations by introducing continuous mining operations that can run throughout the year—nonstop. This method would cut down costs and increase both productivity and efficiency, but the method is still being tested at various mines located around the globe and is therefore not yet ready for widespread adoption.
Developing Technology to Meet the Future of Mining
As an industry focused on extracting minerals, metals, and other major substances, various notable innovations contribute to economic growth in the mining sector.
These innovations are vital for the continued sustainability and growth of the mining sector, which is itself a vital part of the international industry. Noteworthy mining innovations include the use of new materials that help miners increase efficiency, maximize profits, improve sustainability practices, and reduce costs.