Despite the many opportunities that robotics brings to the mining industry, research and innovation in the area has declined in the past quarter. Experts stressed that the mining industry needs to further embrace this technology to fully transition to Mining 4.0. Furthermore, there is a unique opportunity for Mexico to lead the market for these technologies.
Robotic technology has become a focal point in mining innovation, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the sector and companies were forced to innovate further to ensure their projects could continue to operate. Since then, robotic solutions have been used more widely for remote monitoring, surveillance and predictive analytics.
In the coming years, mining’s robotics and IT market is expected to grow significantly, even outpacing several strong industries such as manufacturing and energy, Mining Technology reported. Nevertheless, despite the many opportunities that robotics technology represents in the market, the number of patent applications related to robotics worldwide was 11 in 1Q22, 16 less than in the same period of 2021. In addition, five patents were granted during 1Q22, just like in 1Q21.
During 1Q22, Honeywell International had the most patented robotics applications with four. The company was followed by Caterpillar and Orica, with two patents each. Epiroc AB, Komatsu and Sandvik AB each had one, reported Mining Technology. Experts explained that one of the reasons for robotics' stagnation is that many mining industry leaders are not prepared for a future with less human labor and more robots.
However, the experts agree that change is necessary if miners want to remain relevant and competitive. As for the unemployment fears regarding the transition to Mining 4.0, they say that while some jobs will disappear, many others will be created. Consequently, the experts urge miners and technology providers to continue to push for a more digitalized and automated mining future.
Moreover, mining leaders believe that Mexico can become a key player in the market, not only because it has become a major consumer of these robotic solutions, but also because it is producing them itself. If these digitalized ideas are promoted further, Mexico could someday lead the industry’s robotics innovation.
“Mexico has a very mature audience for innovative solutions. The key for current and future mining trends for geospatial and robotic technology will be in creating more efficient operations based on automated systems. Considering Mexico’s progress and potential, I hope that within the next 10 years Mexico takes the lead in the industry in Latin America and perhaps even the world,” Armando Guevara, CEO, Gtt NetCorp told MBN.
As an example of the country’s efforts, Mexico will develop five nano robots to be sent to the moon in June 2022 as part of a groundbreaking scientific mission to collect key minerals. The robots will measure the temperature of lunar plasma, electromagnetic waves and the size of regolith particles to better understand the potential of space mining. Once the moon has been explored further, asteroids will be studied next, reported MBN.