Our 5 Predictions for 2020 - Part 1

Our 5 Predictions for 2020 – Part 1

We’re putting out our predictions for 2020 in mining technology. But first, let’s see how accurate our predictions for 2019 were.

Our 5 Predictions for 2020 – Part 1

The year has flown by for us here at MTS; we’re reflecting on 2019, and considering what may come in 2020.

At the same time last year we put our predictions forward for mining technology trends in 2019 – Let’s see how they held up. If you want to skip straight to the 2020 predictions, click here.

Overall we got most predictions and mining industry trends right, with two remaining unchecked – This is not that they didn’t/won’t happen, just not at the speed we anticipated.

Below we dive into each prediction and given some details of what happened in 2019 for each.

How accurate were our predictions for 2019?

1. Digital Transformation in mining will continue to be a challenge

The mining industry doesn’t move in paradigm shifts and digital transformation in mining has, and will, continue to be challenging for many mining companies. This is particularly the case for large entities with many operations, people and mining technology systems in place.

Some are now realising that the tactic of running a mix of OEM products (machinery and software) to play each against each other is only potentially hindering efforts at mining data analytics due to incompatibilities and difficulties with interoperability.

2. Use of Autonomous Open Pit Haulage will continue to develop

Great technological advancements and successes are being reaped in this area. Rio Tinto celebrated 1 billion tonnes moved with 80 x Komatsu autonomous trucks in 2018. Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) followed in 2019 celebrating 1 billion tonnes moved with their 137 autonomous Caterpillar trucks. They are pushing ahead with the aim of 175 trucks being autonomous by mid-2020.

Companies like Rio Tinto with their “Mine of the Future“ programme have agreed to buy 20 x Caterpillar 793F trucks fitted with MineStar Command as part of their Autonomous Haulage System (AHS).

Video courtesy of Fortescue Metals Group

Outside of Australia, Anglo American (for Quellaveco in Peru) and Teck (Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 in Chile) announced they will also be purchasing Caterpillars new 793AC trucks fitted with MineStar Command for hauling., with Vale purchasing 37 x 930E autonomous trucks for Carajás mine.

One thing that still remains elusive is a comprehensive manned Vs autonomous white paper which includes benchmark operational performance and asset health metrics in a like-for-like situation. This is something we would be extremely interested in carrying out…

3. Investing in People

There are more and more mines realising that their technology is an enabling tool, but not a silver bullet for their challenges. How they use it is where the real benefits are made, and a lot of that comes down to people.

We have worked with several mines in 2019 specifically around mining technology training and change management. They have struggled to not only upskill individuals directly working with mining technology, but also change the perceptions of other departments who interact with these systems – such as Survey, Mine Planning and Geotech.

Some, like mining companies such as BHP are restructuring to help facilitate this change, with the aim of creating a much receptive, collaborative and integrated operational approach to technology.

However, with the huge volumes of data available, it is possible to monitor, manage and communicate results easily to all, in an effort to show continuous improvements using mining technology.

This will trend of investment in people through mining technology training continue as digital transformation in the mining industry progresses.

4. Lifting the lid on underground mining technology

The implementation of improved communication and positioning systems underground has begun, though this has been slower than expected.

Mines such as South32’s Cannington are implementing 4G LTE with others adopting systems such as Minetec at BHP Olympic Dam.

Interestingly, at the underground mines we’ve helped, the machines themselves aren’t always as high tech as surface equipment. This means that although the underground mines have been able to ‘get connected’, they haven’t received the expected rich dataset for things like asset condition monitoring and mining data analytics.

There is some catching up to do in this area for the OEMs, across the board.

5. Turning Data into Actionable Information and ‘Big Data’ Analytics

Data-driven decision making continues to be pushed across all modern operations. The need to just guess is slowly moving away.

“Big Data Analytics” is still seen as the solution to digital transformation in the mining industry, although many continue to struggle to achieve targets using much simpler data usage methods.

There are some companies that realise that blindly tackling “Big Data” without a specific, targeted focus can be incredibly costly and yield no tangible results. They are looking for a much more structured approach.

In 2019 we helped several companies map out their targeted big data strategy and were able to deliver the first enabling steps with them. We will continue to work with them in 2020 and hope to share some successes on the effective, tangible use of “Big Data Analytics”.

6. SQL Server Columnstore indexes and Real-time operational analytics

Although being released in SQL Server 2012 this remains something which isn’t extensively used. In 2019 we didn’t see the adoption of this, though with the continued desire to increase data analytics, machine learning, AI etc. we are sure this will slowly grow in use as the trend towards mining data analytics continues in the industry.

7. SAP Business Objects and its role for mining customers will diminish

This proved true with many moving more and more away from SBOP. In particular with the demise of Flash due at the end of 2020, SAP Dashboards is being shelved with several other products taking its place. We have found that Microsoft PowerBI and Tableau seem to be edging forward in the dashboard space particularly with larger companies who are happy to consolidate software. However, with Squirrel dashboards (which we’ve blogged about here), there is still hope for those who need to move away from SBOP Dashboards but don’t want to re-platform entirely.

Read on to hear our predictions for 2020 here.


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