Representatives from MINING.COM were in Greenville, South Carolina last week to meet with dealers, retail agents, and customers to discuss the increasing demand for more mining equipment. Consumable commodities, the legacy of the mining industrial revolution, are beginning to undergo the transformation from diesel to electronic. Global demand for mineral commodities, which are rock-hard, dry, and brittle, will inevitably trend the digital. The business models of miners, which will drive the revolution, will remain primary commercial operations. And the many physical commodities, which will continue to be regulated commodities, will remain gray.
As technology improves the extraction process—increasing the ore density and output—it enables increased efficiencies. Although readily available technologies for miners and environmental conservation have existed for decades, digital technology has created more digital tools than any other industry. It has also become cheaper, thereby reducing production costs and lowering the need for machines. The next 20 years will deliver the most digital advancements in the mining industry, and demand for mining equipment will certainly increase.
MINING.COM’s chief executive, Elaine Quirk, foresees that the mining process will change as technology further advances. “Technology has already transformed the way we do business, but today’s price, energy and mining equipment are all more important than ever,” said Quirk. “We have to look for ways to address these differences before technology gets better and has to leapfrog, or even go further back into the past.”
The changes will especially apply to precious metals, diamonds, oil, and copper. Mining has traditionally been supported by minerals that contain higher purity than the other commodities, but many developments in modern technology make this obsolete, especially in mineral mining. Recently, mining giant Rio Tinto replaced large- and medium-size-scale coal mines with self-sufficient pellet processors. Mining companies have also begun to transition to digital technology. A mining revolution, so important for the economy and for global sustainability, will require nonmined commodities to be the leading digital asset.
The mining revolution is already taking place, although very slowly. It will take a decade or so to produce the same number of mining product globally, while the technology at both the surface and inside the mine industry continue to change. South Africa is beginning to transform into a digital economy, partly due to technological innovation but also due to the national and ethical values that it has adopted. South Africa has the second-largest mining industry in the world, only behind the United States.
But even just 1 percent of mining companies will be digitally digitally led over the next five years. By the end of the century, the majority of the world’s mining businesses will be digital. No mining company can go digital at one glance, or receive mining orders through fax. No mining company can view supply and demand dynamics in the field or compete with one another in the office. In short, any digital business needs to scale up or scale down to survive in today’s changing world.
MINING.COM, one of the largest mining companies in South Africa, has developed a digital knowledge based business process process platform that is designed to be entirely un-terrifying. With patented technology, mining companies will be able to virtually “fly the rainbow” through the internet, extract 100 tons of ore, and ship 20,000 metric tons per month into other mines. Mining companies, foreign and local, have started to become digital. The amount of financial transparency in the mining industry has never been greater.
The prediction that mining companies will all be digital is not necessarily accurate. It is usually a false alarm, especially as technology continues to advance in mining. But in the meantime, the potential for mining corporations to do things digitally is unprecedented.
Miners will no longer have to go through lengthy, expensive in-person registration with an inspection officer or document a company’s audits, it will just be possible to do what you want, if you want. The change will not be quick, but it will certainly be significant. For this reason, mining companies should carefully explore the effects of digital technology before proceeding.