The demand for raw materials is rising, and producers around the world are working towards the goal of generating more with less, says instrumentation and automation supplier Endress+Hauser.
“While our planet boasts a wealth of natural resources, industrialised nations and the large emerging ones, such as China and India, are developing an increasing appetite for raw materials,” the company notes, adding that said resources are often distributed unequally.
Most of the large deposits have already been developed, with the remainder lying in inaccessible regions, or being difficult or uneconomical to extract.
Endress+Hauser adds that geopolitical factors, price sensitivity and political demands make business operations difficult. Further, the underground mining sector is considering highly automated extraction methods.
Real-time Mining, a European Union-sponsored research and innovation project, has named two major objectives, specifically decreasing environmental impact and increasing resource efficiency.
Achieving these goals will require continuous process monitoring and highly selective mining operations.
Data is the Key
Endress+Hauser notes that to implement the necessary innovations, precise and continuous data is required, and that all of the individual processes need to be linked to be sure that they can be flexibly controlled in minute detail.
“There are a number of things that we could use this data for, such as faster mine planning, more efficient system operation, automation of the extraction process and improving the processing technologies.”
The company concludes by citing nonprofit organisation Global Mining Guidelines Group chairperson Michelle Ash, who has stated that the real catalyst for fundamental change in mineral and material production could be cyber-physical systems, and that resource scarcity may result in a brighter future through better technology.