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5 Ways That AI & Robotics Could Boost Productivity & Safety in The Mining Industry

September 6, 2022 - Ellie Poverly

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The mining industry plays a more crucial role than many people may realize. Many of the electronics people rely on today require rare earth metals and other materials from underground and surface mines. Consequently, improving productivity in the sector benefits many other industries, but safety in the mining industry is often an issue.

Mining has a fatal injury rate of 12.9 per 100,000 full-time workers, far above the average of 3.5. The sector must expand to support ongoing industrial growth, but it must do so while also becoming safer. Artificial intelligence (AI) and robots could be the answer. Here are five ways AI and robotics could boost mining productivity and safety.

1. Automating the Most Dangerous Tasks

One of the most significant ways AI and robotics improve mining safety is through automation. The most effective way to reduce risks around a hazard is to remove it entirely — automation can enable that. By automating the most dangerous parts of working in a mine, firms ensure these hazards don’t threaten workers.

Robots are often better suited to the most dangerous work, as these are often repetitive, manual tasks. As a result, mining companies can also increase overall productivity by automating these workflows. Fewer injuries will further improve productivity by reducing the unplanned downtime arising from these accidents.

2. Detecting Workplace Hazards

The mining sector could also use AI to detect hazards they may not notice otherwise. Threats like ground faults — which can cause shocks and fires — can arise without catching workers’ attention, like water damage slowly accumulating in electrical equipment. AI solutions can analyze machines and workspaces for these hazards, alerting teams when they detect something out of the ordinary.

Predictive models can take these automatic alerts a step further by recognizing the warning signs of future hazards and warning workers before they happen. Analyzing ground vibrations and similar signals could help AI algorithms predict earthquakes, mine collapses and similar threats, letting employees evacuate before anyone gets hurt. Response times significantly affect employee safety, so these early warnings are crucial.

3. Reducing Human Error

AI and robotics and also help improve productivity and safety by minimizing errors. Some authorities estimate human error accounts for almost all accidents in the workplace and it’s easy to see why. People can easily get bored, distracted or forget routine safety steps, especially in repetitive work, causing judgment lapses.

Robots and AI don’t have that problem. As long as their programming adheres to safety standards, they’ll always stick to company safety protocols and deliver the same results consistently over time. Even when this error reduction isn’t a matter of safety, it improves productivity by reducing the rework necessary to fix mistakes.

4. Maximizing the Workforce

Some people worry AI and robotics will replace human workers as they grow. However, the more effective way to use them is to supplement employees’ work rather than take over entirely. Automated systems and humans have unique strengths and weaknesses, so using each where they’re strongest helps mines maximize their workforce’s potential.

AI can automate routine data entry tasks and robots can handle the most hazardous and demanding physical labor. That leaves human employees more time to focus on workflows requiring more nuance and adaptability. When workers spend more time doing what they’re best at, overall mining productivity will rise.

5. Enabling Ongoing Optimization

AI and automation can also work together to enable a spirit of ongoing improvements. Connected robots can gather workflow data as they operate in the mine that AI can analyze to highlight areas where processes fall short and are strong. This insight can help mining companies adjust their workflows to become as productive and safe as possible.

Projections from 2017 suggest just 25% of the mining industry will use advanced analytics by 2025. Capitalizing on these technologies early can help more tech-centric mining companies optimize and outperform their competitors. As mining demand continues to rise, these optimizations will also become more critical.

AI and Robotics Have Vast Potential in Mining

AI and robotics are still new to the mining industry, but their potential is impressive. As more mines adopt these technologies, the sector will become safer and more productive, helping protect workers while meeting growing demand.

As these technologies develop, more use cases and benefits will emerge. AI and robotics’ value in the mining sector will likely only rise from here.

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.

Author

Ellie Poverly

Ellie Poverly is a science writer specializing in astronomy and environmental science and is the Associate Editor of Revolutionized. Ellie's love of science stems from reading Richard Dawkins books and her favorite science magazine as a child, where she fell in love with the experiments included in each edition

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