This is the sixth and final document by RFC Ambrian in our recent series of reports on innovation and new technology in the mining industry. In this report we attempt to capture some of the projects being implemented in the mineral exploration field, although in this area, as in some other areas, we find that much of today’s innovation is largely incremental and the difference between new technology and incremental improvement is sometimes blurred.
Improvement and refinement of existing techniques: New technology and innovation at the data gathering side of mineral exploration in recent years has been about improvement and refinement of existing techniques, particularly in drilling and in geological analysis, as well as the use of drones in early stage exploration. The application of digitalisation is taking place on the data processing side of exploration, including the use of ‘big data’, to better understand the geological environment and predict the potential for economic resources. At the same time there is the potential for the data to be fully integrated into the mine planning, development, and operation as part of the ‘mine of the future’.
Finding new resources is ever more difficult: Finding new resources and replacing existing reserves is becoming ever more difficult for mining and exploration companies, with a general trend of ever declining average grades. So new exploration technology continues to focus on areas that have the potential to overcome the increasing challenges of remote, complex, and low-grade ore deposits. At the same time, this needs to be achieved economically and with a higher probability of success.
The future is deep mineral exploration: Most mines that exist today have been found where mineralised rocks have been exposed at or near to the surface. However, new geochemical and geotechnical technology is now being applied to deep mineral exploration to find potential orebodies that have no surface exposure. The next generation of mines will increasingly require greater exploration success at discovering mineralisation at deeper levels beneath barren cover, but again at a cost that is economic.
Other new technology: During the course of this research on innovation and new technology in the mining sector we came across a number of interesting new products and ideas discovered or announced after publication or that did not naturally fall in to our other sections and have included them at the end of this report.
Feedback and on-going dialogue welcome: Of course, it is difficult to definitively capture or identify all new technology in the mining industry and we recognise that some omissions may have occurred, but we welcome any feedback and are open to on-going dialogue from investors, mining companies, research organisations, and OEMs on all aspects of new technology and innovation.
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For the full 22page report please click here.