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Driverless technology, deep-sea excavations and mining expeditions on the moon were once just the ideas of sci-fi movies. Today, they’re realities or just around the corner. By 2020, we expect most of them to be the norm. As low commodity prices persist, mining companies are under pressure to re-imagine their business models.

Supplied by BDO 

Those that have incorporated technology into their operations have seen their revenue streams live on, while those that haven’t have fallen short.

Mining is in the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, and further digitization is on the horizon.

The value of harnessing technology is obvious.

Driverless technology increases mining output by 15 to 20% while cutting fuel and maintenance costs by 10 to 15% and 8%, respectively.

It also improves safety exponentially.

At the same time though, these Internet-connected technologies open the mining industry up to new cyber-attack vectors that they must hedge against through proper internal controls.

If not, they risk seeing their entire operation crippled by a single attack.

Decreased coal consumption in China — the world’s largest coal consumer — meanwhile, is slowing global demand for the commodity.

As dependence on coal wanes, we expect renewables to account for one-quarter of the world’s electricity generation by 2020.

Reflecting on this period of transition, BDO’s Global Natural Resources team is looking towards the future to help mining companies anticipate and plan for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

It believes that to prepare for success in 2020 and beyond, mining companies must strive to become “Lean, Green, Digital” machines.

Robots

By 2020 robots will replace more than 50% of miners and mining accidents will be cut by 75%.

Half of the miners will themselves be retrained to run the technology controlling the robots.

European Union conflict minerals

Supply chain transparency will take the compliance spotlight for 2020 as companies gear up for the European Union’s Conflict Minerals Rule, effective in 2021.

Cybersecurity

By 2020, activist hackers will launch at least five cyber-attacks on mines around the world in Permanent Denial of Service (PDoS) attacks aimed at eliminating the environmental and social threats they pose.

They’ll use workers’ connected devices to initiate the attacks.

Renewables

By 2020, renewables will account for one-quarter of the world’s electricity generation as dependence on coal wanes.

IoT in mining

Global mining companies leveraging Internet-connected sensors and automated drillers in mines will decrease their per ton digging costs by more than 30%.