Resolute’s Syama gold mine in southern Mali will become the world’s first fully automated mine by the end of this year. The company has partnered with Sweden’s Sandvik, a leading producer of mining equipment, to develop the Syama mine, which has a total gold reserve of 2.9 million ounces. Resolute took over the Syama mine from BHP in 2015, and specifically designed and developed the lower levels of the mine with the long-term goal of automation in mind. Because the mine uses bulk mining methods – which are highly repetitive – the Syama site is particularly well-suited for automation.
Technology from the Underground Up
To facilitate full automation at Syama, Resolute and Sandvik have installed an extensive fiber-optic infrastructure within the mine. This network will provide continuous information flow from Sandvik’s innovative AutoMine and OptiMine software to the above-ground command centers, haulage trucks, loaders, and other mining machinery. The fiber-optic network is especially designed to help streamline mine traffic and improve maintenance schedules.
In general, mine automation offers operators a wide range of advantages, including:
- lower labor and equipment maintenance costs
- greater mine efficiency
- improved mine safety
- increased information flow
The Economics of Mining Equipment Automation
While mine automation can represent an expensive initial investment, the long-term cost savings are considerably greater. For instance, in the case of the Syama mine, a $15 million investment in automation is expected to provide a 30% reduction in overall mining costs over the course of the mine’s life. As automation in the mining sector becomes more prevalent, mechanization rates will rise and, consequently, some jobs will be lost. On the other hand, new opportunities will arise for technology specialists, who will play a much greater role in the mining process than they did in the past.
Without a doubt, automation will continue to transform the global mining equipment industry going forward, offering improved productivity to operators and ensuring their long-term profitability. While the transformation of the mining sector will be a decades-long process, we are beginning to see the full potential of automation.
To Learn More
Need more information? To dig deeper into the evolution of the global mining equipment industry, check out Global Mining Equipment, a new study from The Freedonia Group.
About the Author:
Gleb Mytko is an Industry Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where his work covers the global automotive, transportation, and machinery markets.