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As operators reduce staff and CAPEX to save costs, automation use cases such as predictive maintenance, asset optimization, and remote monitoring of equipment across large sites become important. Other key IoT outcomes include reducing downtime, saving energy, improving productivity and output, and enhancing operational safety. Through digital infrastructure and IT-OT convergence, miners gain higher operational visibility and real-time monitoring capabilities that help achieve safety, minimize downtime, reduce energy consumption, and facilitate optimal utilization of mining assets. Operational efficiency projects drive digital expenditure. For example, the increased use of solar power in mines, as well as greater numbers of water recycling projects will spur higher expenditure on digital solutions to manage these assets and processes effectively. In the 12 years leading to 2015, the fatality rate in the mining industry decreased by 64.5%, from 12.4 worker fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2003 to 4.4 in 2015. However, the mining industry still has among the highest fatality rates among all industries in the country. Digital solutions that help miners improve their safety record and facilitate better compliance are set to experience sustained demand. Weak commodity prices are causing many struggling mining companies to restructure, with some selling assets to continue operations. The Australian mining sector CAPEX declined by 30% in 2015–2016. In this environment, there are fewer greenfield projects starting up and mining operators are not expected to spend large amounts on CAPEX. Even customers that chose to pursue digital transformation are exhibiting higher cost sensitivity and are looking for lower-cost alternatives, which is negatively impacting the overall market revenue growth. The Australian mining sector’s total expenditure on ICT solutions dropped in 2017, mirroring the CAPEX decline in the overall mining sector. However, assuming there is no significant deterioration in commodity prices or global economic indicators, the CAPEX is expected to recover in 2018–2022. In fact, the slowdown has forced mining companies to eliminate non-performing operations and as a result, they are now agile enough to take advantage of the turnaround. In addition, service revenues, especially data- and analytics-based services, are expected to grow at a faster rate than the total market over the forecast period. In terms of verticals, ICT uptake in the thermal coal sector is declining due to the weakening of the end-market itself. In terms of the value chain, digital spending is expected to increase in processing (roasting, leaching, concentration, smelting), as well as in transportation and logistics. Effective, cost-efficient, high-precision, wireless tracking, and communication technology is becoming increasingly important for underground operations. Autonomous navigation capabilities in traditional underground mining equipment, monitored with video and data transfer via a wireless network over a fiber-optic infrastructure, is a key innovation for improving productivity through a blend of IT and OT. In the long term, as surface mine deposits are further depleted, there is likely to be greater spending on underground mines.Author: Ivan Fernandez
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