Pandemic accelerates investment in mining technology

News Highlights: Pandemic accelerates investment in mining technology

The pandemic is accelerating investment in automation and technology upgrades by mining companies to reduce the workforce site, according to the general manager of the world’s largest manufacturer of mining drilling equipment.

Miners were already updating equipment to deal with lower quality material and deeper mines, which often contain more water. They have also responded to pressure from investors to reduce CO2 emissions. For example, more people are using electric trucks and every major miner now has a net CO2 zero target.

But Helena Hedblom, CEO of Sweden’s Epiroc, said the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new technology as mining companies have tried to increase the number of employees. site.

“Given the pandemic, that has really been identified as an area where automation and digitization can help. With connected machines, when you send a technician to site, you know what the problem is. In any case, the pandemic has accelerated the transition to new technology, ”she told the Financial Times.

Ms Hedblom said mining has “enormous potential” to improve sustainability, safety and productivity. The average age of mining equipment is increasing, she added, offering opportunities for both new sales and maintenance on older machines.

Epiroc, which emerged two years ago from Sweden’s most valuable company, Atlas Copco, competes with Caterpillar from the US, Komatsu from Japan and Sandvik from Sweden, among others. Services are also a large and growing part of its business, accounting for more than two-thirds of sales in the third quarter of last year.

Ms Hedblom said Epiroc still has room to grow in this market as it only serves about half of the machines it currently sells. The company is also increasingly rebuilding mid-life equipment to increase productivity, including by adding autonomous technology, she added.

Helena Hedblom, head of Epiroc, which emerged from Atlas Copco © Epiroc two years ago

“We are, in a sense, a productivity supplier. We have employees in the mine sites 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make sure the equipment is working, ”says Hedblom.

Starting in the first quarter of this year, Epiroc will offer mining customers the option to replace a diesel engine with an electric battery during a mid-life overhaul.

Electrification can be especially helpful as mines get deeper, as it removes the need for expensive ventilation to extract diesel fumes, Ms Hedblom said.

Most miners have equipment from different manufacturers, and Ms. Hedblom said a major development would be “mixed fleets automation”, where one control system manages machines from different companies. Epiroc is participating in two trials in Australia with Roy Hill and Newcrest.

Ms. Hedblom added that compared to previous mining technology shifts that started in North America, Europe and Australia, the interest in automation and electrification “came from everywhere – that’s different than before.”

Via: www.ft.com

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