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Robots to replace 50% of miners by 2020: BDO Global Prediction

31 January 2018

Driverless technology, deep-sea excavations and mining expeditions on the moon were once just the ideas of sci-fi movies. Today, they’re realities or just around the corner according to latest global research by BDO.

In BDO’s Energy 2020 Vision: The Near Future of Mining report, BDO’s Natural Resources leaders around the world have made key predictions for the mining industry in 2020. These predictions include:

  • Robots will replace more than 50 percent of miners, and mining accidents will be cut by 75 percent. Half of the miners will themselves be retrained to run the technology controlling the robots.
  • Technology will drive a 30 percent decrease in per ton digging costs for global mining companies leveraging Internet-connected sensors and automated drillers.
  • Cybersecurity:  By 2020, activist hackers will launch at least five cyberattacks on mines around the world in Permanent Denial of Service attacks aimed at eliminating the environmental and social threats they pose. They’ll use workers’ connected devices to initiate the attacks.
  • Miners of the Future – As technology companies become more dependent on the security of supply of important minerals we will see them take direct stakes in mining companies or in the operating mines themselves.
  • By 2020, renewables will account for one-quarter of the world’s electricity generation as dependence on coal wanes.

Sherif Andrawes, National Leader, Natural Resources at BDO said “As the focus on minimising costs of production increases, mining companies are under pressure to reimagine their business models. Those that have incorporated technology into their operations have seen their revenue streams live on, while those that haven’t have fallen short.”

“The value of harnessing technology is clear. Driverless technology increases mining output by 15 to 20 percent while cutting fuel and maintenance costs by 10 to 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively. It also improves mining safety exponentially. At the same time, though, these Internet-connected technologies open the mining industry up to new cyberattack vectors that they must hedge against through proper internal controls. If not, they risk seeing their entire operation crippled by a single attack.”

Locally, the report outlines how the path to growth is changing. Crowd Sourced Equity Funding (CSEF) legislation was passed by the Australian Government in 2017 and CSEF platforms will be live in 2018. While the media focus on CSEF has been on technology start-ups, the new method of financing in Australia has the potential to transform the growth path of small-to-medium mining companies as well. CSEF will likely replace the first rungs of the ASX ladder for exploration companies.

“We see CSEF forming a key part of the growth journey for exploration companies, with early ASX listing becoming a strategy of the past. A company will raise the funds it needs without the burdens of being ASX-listed and with reduced compliance requirements. This will allow for a greater focus of efforts and resources into exploration and value-add activities.” 

“We believe that to prepare for success in 2020 and beyond, mining companies must strive to become “Lean, Green, Digital” machines,” he concluded.