November 5, 2017

EVERYBODY KNEW YA DIDN'T GIVE NO LIP TO BIG 'BOT:

Miners Aim 'Very Sci-fi' Drones at Dark, Dangerous Places (Mike Cherney, Nov. 5, 2017, WSJ)

Hundreds of feet underground here, scientists are experimenting with a technology that could transform how mining companies dig out rocks in dangerous, pitch-black caves: fully autonomous drones.

The drones would fly without any pilot assistance into areas too risky for human miners. Using a rotating laser similar to those on autonomous cars, they would create three-dimensional maps more detailed than what is available now, helping miners excavate more gold and other commodities that might otherwise be missed.

"It's very sci-fi," said Zachary McLeay, a production engineer for Australian gold producer Northern Star Resources Ltd. , after seeing a drone fly into a dark cavern during a recent test.

The trial, at Northern Star's Jundee gold mine in Western Australia, is part of a broader effort by the global mining industry to embrace automation, which is driving down costs and improving safety. It also might lead to fewer jobs. Companies from South Africa to Australia are already using technology such as driverless trucks, mechanized drilling and extra-long conveyor belts to improve productivity as they look to rebound from the recent downturn in commodity prices.

Automation can "save lives, and also save time and save money," said Mehmet Kizil, associate professor and mining-engineering program leader at the University of Queensland in Australia. "The industry's made a big jump in adopting this technology because the biggest cost in mining is labor."

Posted by at November 5, 2017 7:30 PM

  

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