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Mining & Resources

The increasing importance of automation in the mining sector

7 Apr 2014, by Informa Insights

p06_LongwallnewAs one of the country’s most important industries, mining in Australia needs to ensure it can evolve and adapt to keep up with competition. As expected, technology is playing a major part as the sector continues to shift and develop.

Automation is one of the most disruptive technological developments in mining in recent years, and Frost and Sullivan expects it to grow in importance in Australia and abroad. In fact, the consulting firm’s ‘ANZ Automation Services Market’ report predicts that the market for this technology will be worth AUD$302 million by 2018.

By way of comparison, this market turned over revenues of AUD$196.7 million last year.

According to Frost and Sullivan, the highly sophisticated nature of mining operations and the intricate steps involved in the supply chain are driving the need to adopt technology such as automation solutions. Automation can help improve processes in practically every step from the mining itself to transport and delivery to plants.

As these procedures require stringent monitoring, it is inevitable that mining companies will look to technology to assist in the process. Automation will play a particularly vital role in repair services and maintenance, said Frost and Sullivan.

While the benefits that automation can bring are undeniable, it’s crucial to size up the possible risks that the technology presents as well. As Frost and Sullivan pointed out, investing in automation solutions has the potential to open a mining company to the threat of hackers. As yet, most companies do not have the capabilities to detect and mitigate such attacks.

Most users therefore remain cautious and are still hesitant to invest in full systems, explained Krishnan Ramanathan, Frost and Sullivan industrial automation and process control research analyst.

“While there are numerous projects in progress, end users are conservative about investing in new systems,” he said.

“They are, however, likely to spend on services so vendors are ramping up their service portfolios – from consulting to maintenance.”

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