How curiosity and humility unlock great mines

How curiosity and humility unlock great mines

Transitioning to renewable energy production and the electrification of transportation and industry is our chosen path to sustain our modern lifestyle in the future. This future relies on mined materials. The research and development behind them is crucial.

Vedrana Spudic, Head of Technology, Mining & Gearless Mill Drives
Vedrana Spudic, Head of Technology, Mining & Gearless Mill Drives
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Ubiquitous electronics and computational power define our way of life, from the phones in our hands and the servers running AI algorithms, to the medical devices in our hospitals and doctors' offices. Transitioning to renewable energy production and the electrification of transportation and industry is our chosen path to sustain our modern lifestyle in the future.

All these technologies, crucial to our present and future, rely heavily on mined metals. Even if we become exceptional at recycling (which we certainly should strive for), we will still need to mine extensively to maintain our way of life. Facing substantial growth potential alongside the pressure to become more sustainable, leading mining companies are shifting their approach to technology. Once late adopters, they are now becoming technology front-runners, embracing open innovation and collaboration with partners. This trend is both exciting and inspiring.

Mining companies are innovating to develop less intrusive mining methods, minimize environmental impact, and ensure social fairness, and we at ABB aim to advance the mining industry with our automation and electrification technologies. Our recent technological focus spans two main areas:

Enhancing Safety: We aim to make mines safer by deploying autonomous robotic solutions in hazardous environments and using computational intelligence for environmental sensing and equipment condition monitoring.

Reducing Emissions: We design mine power and energy systems to utilize the most appropriate energy carriers and electrification equipment, while also improving process control and energy efficiency to lower emissions.

This dual focus helps us support the mining industry in its quest for sustainability and operational excellence – while staying productive and commercially competitive.

These development directions align well with current technological advances, allowing us to select the most appropriate solutions to address our customers' needs.It is exciting, if not sometimes overwhelming, to keep up with recent breakthroughs in computational intelligence and leverage the latest tools. Additionally, advancements in power transmission, conversion, and storage technologies have received a significant boost from global decarbonization trends. This has made long-developing technologies economically viable, enabling them to slowly move from laboratories into power-intensive industries.Today, more than ever, innovation requires curiosity. We must remain vigilant, monitoring a wide range of technological advancements to identify the right opportunities for innovation.

However, we must recognize that mining presents a unique environment for deploying technology. Unlike a factory line where robots continuously perform the same tasks, robots in mines operate in a constantly changing and evolving landscape, subject to the harshest conditions.

The energy demands in mining are unprecedented - each ton of rock that is blasted, transported to the processing plant, grinded it into sand-sized particles, and run through an extensive separation processes, provides only several kilograms of metal. Transitioning energy carriers in this process, such as electrifying diesel-powered mining trucks or storing sufficient energy in batteries to withstand power supply dips, still poses unresolved challenges for current technologies. The harshness of the environment, including vibrations, ingress, and exposure to extreme conditions, requires a humble acknowledgment of the scale of the problem.

We must avoid jumping to conclusions or becoming overconfident; technology success in other industries does not guarantee success in mining. Therefore, it is essential to conduct early testing very close to customers, be prepared for failure, and approach each challenge with humility.

Great minds, who dare to take up really big challenges with abundant curiosity and humility, is what we need to make great mines.This is what Great Minds, Great Mines means to me. 

I am very proud of our research and development teams working on dedicated solutions for the mining industry, which are filled with great minds.  

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