Industries around the world are constantly evolving. In order to stay on top of their game, adapting to the newer technologies, dealing with a worldwide pandemic, and delivering consistency, has become the norm for any industry.
The mining sector is no different. In fact, with the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, this industry has had it harder to power through than most other industries. The year 2020 has been very challenging and grappling with industry-specific issues such as an uncertain geopolitical landscape, disruption, and investor activism simultaneously, only served to push the mining industry to buckle up and do better.
As Australian businessman Clive Palmer rightly said, “Mining is a patient game and it always will be.” Miners are patiently taking this chance to uncover new opportunities to help their industry thrive. Decarbonization processes, digitized operations, modern mining workforce, and intelligent mining are some of the trends noted to be making headlines this year.
1. Low-Carbon Economy
It is no secret that the mining industry being as energy-intensive as it is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. With global warming increasing in leaps and bounds, investors and environmentalists are pressuring the mineral industry to switch to a carbon-neutral approach. This transition to using renewable energy sources will be advantageous to the miners as low-emission energy and transportation systems are mineral-intensive, thereby increasing the demand for mining companies.
2. Automation and Intelligent Mining
The era of digitization is upon us and leveraging the wide range of capabilities provided by the latest technologies will prove beneficial for the mining sector. Research and Markets released a report that states, “The global smart mining market was valued at USD 6.8 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 20.31 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 8.2% over the forecast period 2020–2025.” Intelligent mining helps keep the mining sector sustainable and profitable. Data transparency and security become the top concerns for miners once they automate their mining operations. This will promote collaboration between the stakeholders and miners when they need to make decisions regarding the types of data to be shared. Another benefit of automation and digitization of mining is the ability to work remotely, considering the recent lockdown due to COVID-19. Remote mining technologies are gaining traction due to the low operational costs, improved safety of employees, and higher ROI for existing assets.
3. Socially Conscious Mining Operations
The activities related to the extraction of minerals have always come under fire for their socio-economic as well as environmental impact. With the investors and other stakeholders demanding that the mining industry be more socially responsible, it has become imperative for the miners to devise improved solutions that reduce their environmental footprint and protect the local communities.
4. Alternative Financing Options for Miners
The traditional financing options for the mining industry do not work well for junior exploration and development miners in terms of capital. With most of the mining projects being capital intensive, several small industries consolidate their operations as part of a joint venture. This is a viable option most of the time until clashes occur due to poor decision making. Some inventive financing options include production-based financing, private equity funds, and a rather novel option, cryptocurrency as a form of funding.
5. Dynamic Risk Management
Risk and the mining sector go hand in hand with concerns such as worker safety, instability of the operational environment, and disruptions in the supply chains occurring on a daily basis. Industry executives need to be vigilant and on their toes to effectively assess and handle risks. With increasing volatility in the industry, the traditional risk registers can no longer be relied upon. It is of the utmost importance to predict the risks that may occur in the future and prepare for the worst-case scenario as well as analyze and learn from past mistakes.