Digging deeper: why automation is urgent for mining and metals

Power supply connect to electric vehicle for charge to the lithium battery.

8 kg lithium, 35 kg nickel, 20 kg manganese, 14 kg cobalt: it’s a weighty shopping list, containing some of the key ingredients for a typical electric vehicle (EV) battery pack. And that’s just one example of the important green technology we need to embrace along the road to net zero – one that illustrates the huge demands the decarbonization transition is placing on the metals and mining industry.

The pressure to mine more, or different, raw materials is already being felt – and we’re just getting started. In fact, as important as all of today’s decarbonization commitments are, there’s a very real danger that they’re fast outstripping what our society can actually achieve. Will mining – a traditional industry that’s hardly well known for its agility – be able to keep up with increasing demand for the essential elements required for a successful sustainability transition?

Automation: Bringing a traditional industry into the 21st century

The metals and mining sector is highly capital-intensive with long lead times. But the market situation is changing fast: customers expect mining companies to grow more quickly and cleanly than ever before, to keep up with consumer demand for more sustainable applications. Meanwhile, mines are facing all kinds of short- and long-term challenges, from unfavorable energy and commodity prices to decreasing ore grades and the transition to Industry 4.0.

But there’s another big trend that has the potential not only to shake up mining as we know it but also to solve many of these issues: automation.

Automation in mining is well worth getting right. It can give operations access to more remote locations or indicate closed mines that should be reopened. It can enable more frequent and accurate analysis that helps minimize energy use and resource waste. And it can help companies develop new processes and monitor different ore grades. In short, automation will help bring the target of net-zero mining closer.

A rich seam of mining solutions

On the other hand, it might not seem like the most obvious solution. After all, mines are famously full of dust and dirt – hardly the ideal setting for precision lab equipment. But with the right tools, there’s no reason why mining can’t embrace automation (and find its place in our modern digital world).

At Malvern Panalytical, we’re constantly working with mining industry partners to develop the robust, high-quality instruments that can help companies automate their operations – for improved efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. One of our recent highlights? The MintecRobo: an automated solution that makes mining processes faster, more accurate, and more efficient. It provides real-time, 24/7 information about changing ore composition and processing conditions – and even uses this data to adjust its own extraction methods.

But there’s also much, much more. From trace elemental analysis to particle size distribution measurements, from ore sorting to liquid analysis, from in-line monitoring to a fully automated lab … our portfolio of industry-specific solutions is designed to overcome the challenges of mining environments, help you optimize your operations, and support the transition to a greener metals future. Now, where did we leave that shopping list?

Click below to drill down into Malvern Panalytical’s mining solutions – or catch up on our LinkedIn Live session, “Keeping up with green metals demand,” here.

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