The magic words at MINExpo 2021? Electric & autonomous

Last month, several members of the SafeAI team attended MINExpo International, a trade show that explores the latest in all corners of the mining industry. We spent several days at the Siemens booth connecting with old and new industry friends, and hearing about mining’s newest innovations, equipment and tactics. After reflecting on all that we learned, we wanted to take a moment to fill everyone who wasn’t able to make the trek to Las Vegas in on what they missed at this year’s event.

For those of you who aren’t super familiar, MINExpo is an annual event that convenes people from around the world to exchange insights on all phases of mining — exploration and surveying, mine site development, open-pit mining, underground mining and so on. More than a thousand companies come to the show from all sectors of mining — from coal to precious metals to sand and gravel — to hear about how they can optimize and advance their own operations.

So what’s top of mind for the mining industry? This year, it’s simple. In fact, it can pretty much be summed up in two words: electric and autonomous.

Innovations in these two areas were everywhere we looked at MINExpo — from our own experience at the Siemens booth, to new autonomous and electric applications from a number of companies, including MacLean and Caterpillar. Over the course of the three days, it quickly became clear that these two words will define the future of our industry — so let’s dig in a bit more.

Electrification will fuel more efficient & sustainable operations

First up is electrification, a trend that’s really picking up steam in our industry. Electrification enables companies to meaningfully reduce their emissions, which is important from both an environmental standpoint and a regulatory one as emissions restrictions become more stringent, particularly in places like California. Electrification is also valuable from a business perspective, as electric vehicles encounter fewer maintenance issues, resulting in less downtime and more efficient operations overall.

We had a front row seat to hear from Siemens, a global leader in electrification, at their booth. But our two companies certainly weren’t the only ones excited about more sustainable operations.

Dana announced a new Spicer Electrified e-Powershift transmission designed to simplify the mining industry’s shift toward electrification. Liebherr shared that it’s offering low carbon emission solutions like electric drive for all trucks and excavator types, and outlined a zero emissions future for mining. Epiroc announced new electric driveline options to reduce emissions in underground mining, and Hitachi showcased its electric models, and spoke to how these solutions can optimize mining operations.

Across the exhibition floor, it was immediately clear that the tides have turned. The mining industry is moving rapidly toward electric equipment to power more sustainable and cost-effective operations.

Autonomy will (self-) drive the mining industry forward

If you’ve been following SafeAI for a while, you’re no stranger to the benefits the mining industry can expect from autonomy: better safety, greater productivity, significant cost-savings. From our conversations at MINExpo, it’s clear that today the industry not only understands this potential, but is really excited about it. Now, it’s about how to unlock the benefits ASAP.

This event was a fact-finding mission for many companies, and they had a lot of questions about their options. Questions like when can I get this autonomous solution? How fast can we activate it? When will I see a return? Our peers across the show really rose to the challenge, unveiling a number of new autonomous solutions to help companies begin to build smarter, safer sites, sooner.

HARD-LINE introduced an automated rock breaker that enables people to remain a safe distance away from this risky process, and Zyfra presented its autonomous drilling solution, ZR Robodrill. Sandvik showcased its AutoCycle functionality that powers a fully autonomous drilling cycle, and battery-driven equipment for emission-free underground mining. Liebherr showed off its autonomous haulage and excavation solutions, while Baidu highlighted its autonomous excavator that they’ve successfully run 24/7. All told, there were dozens of self-driving innovations to help companies create safer and more efficient operations across all phases of mining.

This event was years in the making, but well worth the wait. As we think back on the people we met, the companies we spoke to and the unveilings we saw, our team can’t help but be excited about what’s next for this industry. Mining companies are barreling full steam ahead toward a more sustainable, more productive, safer future — and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. If you’re interested in catching up with our team about our time at MINExpo, or what we’ve been up to elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to reach out at safeai@launchsquad.com.

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Accelerating the Transition to Autonomous Mining and Construction