Technology in the 21st century mining industry.

Mining is incredibly vulnerable to climate change. The industry is undergoing a significant technological transformation, using more robotics and electric machines. With more technology being used in mining, the goal is to have less climate impact while getting the minerals the world needs – and this is giving Canada’s mining industry a new sense of purpose.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is looking to mining companies to supply the nickel needed for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, with the caveat that the mineral be mined in an environmentally sensitive way.  According to Supplying the Green Wave, “Canada is one of the few countries in the world that can provide the materials required for lithium-ion batteries that are vital for EVs and other emerging low-carbon technologies. With companies like Tesla facing increased scrutiny around sourcing minerals from countries with serious human rights and environmental abuses, Canada is positioning itself as a reliable and responsible alternative.” Robotics and AI are also playing a major role in Canada’s mining industry with EVs replacing diesel driven vehicles deep down in the mines.

The new energy economy – with the connected worker – means that technology will be supplying data in the field. Plants will need to maximize production and share information with regulators to meet compliance. Currently, start-ups in universities are having their ideas picked up by Canada’s larger mining companies. (Rockmass is an example of one of these start-up companies.)

A changing workforce is creating a strong incentive for mining companies to buy this new technology. Over the next 10 years, Canada will need 100,000 new mining industry workers with core expertise in computer science and engineering. These new workers will expect to work on innovative technology, and will be driving the change. Ways to transition mining workers to the new robotics industry will be needed in the interim.

As a legacy industry, mining might be a bit late to the game for technological innovation but there are lots of opportunities for smart, connected products in Canada’s sector. Workers want to do their jobs – not just for money, but to be part of an environment that leads in sustainability and emerging technologies. 

Looking forward, the goal is to see mining as a solution to climate change, rather than a net contributor.


Photo courtesy Pexels

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