The global mining automation market is segmented on the basis of regions into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. The market for mining automation in Asia Pacific accounted for largest share in the global market in 2016. This growth is attributed to increasing exploration activities in Australia and presence of leading mining companies, which includes Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group, and BHP Billiton. According to Mining.com a leading digital publication covering the global mining sector, among minerals gold is the leading sector accounted 45% of the total exploration expenditure in 2016, but from 2017 expenditure in base materials such as copper, nickel, and zinc among others are increasing. In 2017, Australian government announced to invest US$ 79.8 million to small and medium sized mining companies for encouraging exploration.
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Moreover, Western Australia have already been started using automated mining equipment. For example, The Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) set up a new flotation control system that aids in adjustment of mass balances. The Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) collaborated with Rio Tinto, for the establishment of the Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation (RTCMA) in 2007 through to 2019. The purpose of RTCMA is to improve and implement the visualization of an entirely autonomous, remotely operated mine.
Mining automation refers to highly efficient autonomous equipment installation that enhances productivity and improves safety.
The market for global mining automation is expected to witness significant growth due to increased need for safety, higher productivity, and increased energy efficiency requirement and environmental sustainability. According to a Fatal Accidents in the Mining Industry Report, by Government of Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum, there were 52 fatal accidents over the period (2000–2012), in which 17 were underground and 35 were on the surface. Mining was primarily considered as a high risk job due to exposure to harmful vapors, flammable gases, unbalanced materials, susceptibility to fires and roof collapses, leading to serious threat to human lives. Most conventional systems are not adept at detecting the presence of the target material that needs to be mined and also any such hazards that might be lurking beneath the surface, without human intervention. Mining automation technology helps in detection of dangerous areas in underground mining by sending drones or robots, which collects samples and make a model for best outcome before attempting. Thus mining automation reduce unnecessary expenditure, avoid waste, incorporate operation and faster production rate. Deployment of automation aids in improving safety in mines as it requires less human intervention. For example, Penguin System is robotic system used for determining exact path to follow within a rock mass in real-time, with the help of synthetic rocks, for ensuring safety of workers and replacing manual labor. Automated underground vehicles based on laser technology, can be utilized to monitor leg pressure and analyze performance. Thus, mining automation enhances individual safety of mine workers.
Additionally, driverless haulage trucks, semi-automatic load haul dump truck (LHD), automatic load haul dump truck (LHD), and environmental monitoring systems, among others, are key equipment used in mining automation. Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID), Real Time Sensing System (RTSS), and wireless mesh networking technology with Real Time Locating System (RTLS) are used for better communication in underground mines.
According to the Government of Australia’s Department of Industry report in 2014, Australia’s largest goods producing industry is mining, contributing 8.3% towards GDP. Mining equipment and technology & services recorded the strongest average annual growth in business expenditure on R&D of 14.2%, over the period 2006–07 to 2011–12. These are the factors for growth of the regional mining automation market.
Mining Automation Market: Competitive Background
Major players operating in the global mining automation market include Caterpillar, Inc., Komatsu Ltd., Sandvik, Atlas Copco, Hexagon AB, Hitachi, Ltd., RPMGlobal Holdings Limited, Trimble Inc., Autonomous Solutions Inc., Fluidmesh Networks LLC, MST Global, and Symboticware Inc.