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Exploring New Frontiers: The Future of Mining Exploration Technology

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Mining has played a pivotal role in the development of modern civilisation and recent technological advancements have considerable potential in this sector – particularly for artificial intelligence.

The Role of Technology in Mining

As an incredibly vast and highly profitable industry, mining faces a range of pressures particularly in regard to social, environmental and climate issues. The industry has turned to technological advancement to mitigate these factors, with an increasing understanding of its importance for survival and prosperity.

The Equinix Mining Technology Report 2021-22 revealed that large investments in connectivity, automation, data technology and telecommunications are being made by mining companies. Surveys carried out to formulate the report found that 93% of mining companies are increasing technological spending, while 44% reported the increase is significant.

Technological Advancements in Mineral Exploration

As the demand for natural resources continues to increase, mineral exploration has become even more vital for mining corporations in order to keep up with demand. Modern technology can be utilised in the exploration phase to assist greatly.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In recent times, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a useful technology in the mineral exploration industry. A range of companies in this space are utilising AI and machine learning to produce better exploration targets, speed up the exploration process and assume the role of a virtual consultant.

Machine learning is a valuable tool for processing the overwhelming amount of data collected during mining exploration, and is key to finding more complex mineral deposits. With the vast majority of ‘easy to find’ surface deposits having already been discovered, exploration companies are being forced to search areas with less geological indicators. AI is being utilised to analyse and interpret geological data to improve ground selection by processing large, complex data sets to identify patterns or anomalies that could indicate the presence of resources.

A drawback of the integration of AI in the mining exploration industry is due to poor collection and storage practices over the years leading to a lack of quality historical data. This data is used to train machine learning algorithms and as such there is still a reliance on human expertise.

Drilling Technologies

The introduction of new drilling technologies has been far less common in mineral exploration when compared to the oil and gas industry. As the largest single cost associated with exploration projects, companies are now miniaturising technologies and downhole tools that have been utilised in the petroleum industry for numerous years. Mining exploration and development costs can be substantially decreased if companies optimise the number of drill holes, increase drilling rate or reduce drilling energy requirements.

In a range of situations, directional drilling could significantly reduce the number of required drill holes to discover mineral deposits. New drilling technologies including down-hole hammers, jet drilling systems, in-hole drilling motors and turbodrills all have the potential to increase the drilling rate.

Autonomous Systems For Exploration

Autonomous systems have been utilised within the mining industry for numerous years, including self-driving trucks, robots and drones. These systems can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries on site. For exploration projects, autonomous systems can be used for surveying large areas of land to identify potential mineral deposits, as well as collecting data for analysis in a highly efficient way.

Drones are a particularly exciting technology for mineral exploration, which can be equipped with sensors for detecting minerals and metals on the ground. These drones can also be utilised to create 3D maps of exploration sites to aid companies in better understanding the terrain and potential risks. Alternatively, rovers can also be equipped with these sensors for detection, as well as collect samples to be used for analysis.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing equipment such as satellites and airborne sensors can be used to collect data on a large scale. This allows for easier and more efficient identification of potential mineral deposits than when human parties are tasked with the same job. Remote sensing can be outsourced to assist on saving costs for those companies who are concerned with the cash flow aspect of their exploration projects.

Satellite imagery is currently used to identify geological features, such as rock types and geological formations, that are known to be associated with valuable mineral deposits. Airborne sensors have the potential to detect changes in the magnetic and electromagnetic fields of the Earth, providing insights into the potential for presence of mineral deposits. The data collected by remote sensing technology can be used in conjunction with AI to analyse large areas of land extremely efficiently.

Australia’s Role in Mining Exploration Technology

Currently, a range of the most innovative mining technology companies are based in Australia or have a significant presence there. An example of this is Perth-based Fortescue Metals Group who partnered with Aurora Labs in 2018 to explore potential 3D printing applications in mining. As one of the world’s leading producers in iron ore, Fortescue Metals Group is also a major advocate of sustainable production practices.

Robotics firm Nexxis Australia launched its Magneto-EX robot in 2021, the world’s first EX-rated inspection robot designed to inspect hazardous areas and confined spaces. With a spider like design and magnetic feet, Nexxis claim this provides the robot with an unmatched degree of freedom in exploration efforts worldwide.

Australia is the world leader in autonomous mining vehicles with over 700 autonomous trucks used across the country. All three of the top mining companies in Australia, Fortescue Metals, BHP and Rio Tinto, utilise autonomous trucks to some degree.

Make Your Mining Exploration Project Possible With SPG

At SPG, we pride ourselves on designing and manufacturing our own fleet of purpose-built caravans and associated equipment, suited to mining exploration projects across Western Australia. Our remote mobile camps are able to be delivered to all parts of Western Australia as we strive to be your supplier of choice whenever and wherever you need us.

We specialise in the delivery of turnkey caravan camps to allow your team to complete exploration projects in some of the most remote parts of the state. You tell us what you need and we’ll take care of the rest! From electricity and water supply to satellite communications and restaurant quality food, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch with our specialist team today to find out how we can assist you.