The mining industry operates in a cycle of exploration, discovery, mining, production and reclamation. Mining engineers are involved in each stage, even though their role in each phase varies to a degree. While a mining engineer's field of expertise depends on the material they specialise in exploiting, their essential functions remain the same across the mining industry. Part of this involves looking at emerging challenges affecting the mining industry. This article highlights the key challenges mining engineers face in the industry.
Increased Reliance on Rental Power — Energy is a critical resource for any mining operation. Whether it is shaft construction or filing up the shafts during land reclamation, mining engineers need the energy to perform their duties. However, as mining grounds get depleted, mining companies are forced to look for new mining frontiers. This means that they have to move far away from the national electricity grid; therefore, a permanent power infrastructure is no longer a viable option. Mining engineers are, therefore, turning to scalable micro-grids to tackle this challenge. These micro-grids have allowed mining contractors to operate remote mines. Moreover, scalable micro-grids can evolve with remote mines, thereby giving mining engineers the room for flexibility.
Miners Safety — As mentioned earlier, mining resources are fast depleting. Therefore, mining companies are left to decide to look for new mining grounds or dig deeper. The occupational hazards involved can vary from dangerous gases to collapsing mining shafts. While cases of accidents have considerably reduced over the years, mining engineers remain focused on the fact that safety is still a critical challenge affecting mining and miners well being. Thanks to new technology developed by mining engineers, miners are increasingly gaining the confidence of working in mines without having to worry about their safety. For example, mining engineers are today using robotics in the extension of mining shafts. This technology constantly monitors underlying rocks and act as early warning sensors for the slightest seismic activities.
Skills Shortage — Recent statistics show there are few mining engineers graduating from Australian universities, and this is of great concern to practising mining engineers. For instance, in 2014, the enrollment for mining engineering at the University of New South Wales was 120 students. Fast forward four years later, and this number dwindled to just 6 students in 2018. One way mining contractors and their engineers are trying to solve the skills shortage problem is by creating collaborative partnerships with learning institutions. For example, mining engineers are investing heavily in universities by using their facilities and students to develop mining equipment. Such a collaborative approach goes a long way in nurturing interest in the field early enough.
To learn more about mining engineering, consult a resource in your area.