Automated mining equipment and technology improve the productivity and efficiency of mining operations. Mining by its very nature is a dangerous and hazardous operation. Limited working space, poor lighting, accumulation of hazardous waste and poisonous gases, dust particles from metals, nonmetals and toxic substances, radioactive materials, poor air supply, use of explosives, and unstable roofs are amongst the factors that make mining operations dangerous. However, with the help of artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous technologies, the exposure of workers to dangerous underground and surface operations can be minimised. Machines can autonomously monitor the atmosphere, send signals and warnings, locate problematic areas, and work continuously even in dangerous situations. The competitive landscape of the global automated mining equipment and technology includes the following companies: 

  • Rockwell Automation Inc.
  • Trimble Inc.
  • Autonomous Solutions Inc.
  • ABB Ltd.
  • Hexagon AB
  • Caterpillar Inc.
  • Hitachi Ltd.
  • Komatsu Ltd.
  • Atlas Copco
  • AB Volvo
  • Sandvik
  • BelAZ
  • XEMC

In this article, Global Road Technology takes a closer look at five automated mining technology trends to watch in 2022. 

Zero entry mining  

Around the world, there are some complex orebodies that necessitate truly “human-less” operations to facilitate the safe economic extraction of ore in certain mining zones. This is called “zero entry mining” because no human needs to enter the mining zone. Zero entry mining has the potential to significantly enhance the value of marginal or unrecoverable ore reserves and turn significant quantities of mineral resources into ore reserves. Australia is currently leading the charge in developing and deploying autonomous mining systems and is now seeing benefits in productivity and safety.

Currently, the autonomous solutions are applied to parts of the value chain such as trucks and drills and initially used original equipment manufacturer (OEM) proprietary approaches. Introduction of industrial manslaughter laws in Queensland and other jurisdictions will accelerate the pace of removal of people from hazards through the adoption of autonomous mining technologies and ultimately, zero entry mining systems. 

SMART (Sustainable, Mine, Autonomous, Reporting, Technology) dust suppression dosing units  

Global Road Technology (GRT) has introduced Australian made automated dosing units that have been developed to accurately and autonomously does GRT: Haul-Loc into the water, typically at the standpipe although there are truck-mounted models available. Alternate models of the units are also available for the GRT: ACTIVATE range of technologies for underground mining, crushing, processing, conveying and transfer. Most mines opt for solar units at the standpipe, due to the lack of power available, and the safety considerations.

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GRT’s latest SMART dosing units include telemetry which acts as a data and control hub. Beyond accurate and automated dosing functions, the units also deliver: 

  • An autonomous mine compatible system
  • Water consumption (and savings) 
  • Number of water truck fills per chosen reporting period (shift/week/month) 
  • Water truck efficiency 
  • Product levels and dosage rates 
  • Operational data on the pumps and power units 

Dust suppression using GRT’s SMART dust suppression units has the following benefits in autonomous mines:

  • Improved cycles times – reduction of automated mining truck stoppages and slowdown events caused by road maintenance.
  • Increased safety – reduction of road maintenance vehicle interactions with automated mining trucks.
  • Cost reduction – reduction in automated mining truck fuel burn and maintenance costs by minimising automated mining truck slow down and stoppage events. 
  • Increased social value – reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by increasing automated mining trucks fuel efficiency. 

The rise of the evolving digital mine 

A digital mine is the simulated version of a physical mine which includes mine-inclusive machinery and equipment as well as the production processes. The network consists of models, methods and tools backing the entire production operation. The benefits of a digital mine include continuous and consistent data management, production management and consequent introduction of engineering methods and tools. The evolving digital mine combines artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous technologies to create a new Industry 4.0 approach to mining. Driving the adoption of these digital technologies will be based on the need for continuous improvement in safety, productivity and efficiency. Major advances have been made in the automation of mining and the upward trajectory is expected in 2022. The last major downturn in mineral and energy commodity prices occurred from 2013 to 2015 and proved to be a catalyst for some of the global mining companies to look to automation of their core mining processes to improve productivity and maintain margins. A report prepared by McKinsey Consultants in 2015 predicted that digital technologies would be responsible for US$370 billion in increased revenue by 2025, mainly through improvements to mine operations and maintenance. The lion’s share of this concerned the introduction of autonomous mining technologies. 

Advances in cybersecurity for mining technologies 

Security problems have increased and mutated with Industry 4.0 as evolving innovations have brought new security risk to the mining environment. The convergence of these technologies has provided a gap for new attack surfaces, such that applying unlicensed wireless communication to mining activities moved current hazards and challenges of the underlying technology to the mining ecosystem and introduced a potential for new attacks on the field equipment such as automated mining trucks. Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are dense heterogeneous systems that encompass various sensors and actuators connected to a pool of computing nodes. Automated mining trucks are classified as CPS networks, making them susceptible to the attacks which may threaten communications, storage, actuators, computing nodes and perceiving sensors. Automated mining trucks are endpoints connected to networks and communicating through a command center with different tiers of security. The solutions to cybersecurity challenges will take more of a “security by design” approach which takes into consideration several criteria of cybersecurity architecture such as feasibility, robustness, extensibility, authentication, authorization, network enforced policy, and secure analytics will be counted as security measures. 

Reliable communication in the mining ecosystem

Reliable communication will play a significant role in the prosperity of automated haulage systems. Automated mining trucks can communicate via various communications with the integrated remote operations center (IROC) to collect data from neighbors, control telemetry, and monitor the health and safety of components. Using a secure communication system, the IROC can guide trucks as well as manage them to enable tracking the mining operations. Mining operations would effectively benefit from technological advancement in communications, as communication technologies have become essential for daily operations. Wi-Fi technology continues to be an integral part of mining operations and wireless networks will also open new opportunities for business, such as deployment with lower cost. Wireless sensor networks and their capacity will also improve safety as well as availability in a mining environment although they might have drawbacks which restrict their application to specific areas which require high data rate and significant proximity. Private LTE will be viable alternative to provide robust communication and evade the limitations. New industrial wireless communications systems such as 4.9G/LTE and 5G will also play a critical role in enabling these digital technologies and are transforming the way mining views the strategic importance of digital communications. 


The proprietary nature of automated mining technologies makes it difficult to stick to one way of doing things across the mining industry given the evolution of the technologies year after year. In addition, there is no industry standard or regulations that impose any specifications, rather mining companies are repurposing other industry standards to fit within their mining environment and applications. In this sense, the industry is regulating itself as the safety and environmental benefits also go hand in hand with profitability. Technologies that drive improved safety, increased productivity and reduced costs are at the pinnacle of automated mining technology trends to watch in 2022. 


Conway, G. 2020. The Evolving Role of Communications for the Digital Mine. Engineering and Mining Journal. 221. 1. 54 – 55.

Gaber et al. 2021. Autonomous Haulage Systems in the Mining Industry: Cybersecurity, Communication and Safety Issues and Challenges. Electronics. 10. 1357. 

Hyder et al. 2019. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Autonomous Technologies in Mining Industry. Journal of Database Management. 30.2. 

Knights, P., and Yeates, G. 2021. Progress Toward Zero Entry Mining. Automation Enabling Safer, More Efficient Mining. IEEE Industrial Electronics Magazine.