From the early alchemists to the jewellery fanatics of today, the human race has been obsessed with gold for centuries. Countless cultures gone by have used the precious metal to signify power and beauty, and we continue to use gold today to craft important objects such as wedding rings, Olympic medals and Oscars.
A soft metal that conducts electricity, resists tarnish and is easy to work with, many manufacturers are looking to limit their need for gold due to its rarity and high price point. A significant demand remains however – but what are the technological advances driving the gold mining industry forward?
Automation is revolutionising most industries right now, as businesses look to streamline processes, increase efficiency and open up new revenue streams. In gold mining, autonomous trucks have already been in use for a couple of years, with market leaders rolling out new models at an increasing rate.
While still a little way off just yet, it’s unlikely to be too long before we see fully automated gold mines operating with driverless vehicles, equipment and robotics. This could also see engineers using automated technology to drill deeper into levels uninhabitable for humans.
Again mirroring a shift happening across the world, the gold mining industry is increasingly turning to electric vehicles in order to reduce its environmental impact. With new environmental standards coming into force almost all the time, these vehicles are just one of the technologies helping to clean the sector up.
The process has never been seen as being particularly environmentally friendly, but ditching petrol or diesel-powered alternatives can be seen as a clear step in the right direction.
As with any type of mining, improving worker safety remains a key priority. The drill and blast method used in traditional mining carries risks to both equipment and those operating it, but new underground excavation techniques are being developed as we speak to circumvent the need for evacuation.
Gold mining has come a long way since it’s primitive beginnings, and mining software has been helping to make working environments smarter for several years now.
X-ray diffraction stands out as one of the most innovative examples. This software can be used by engineers to analyse material samples and check property densities, saving companies time and money in the process. There’s not a monopoly either – a number of innovators are driving this software forward.
Though gold remains a material with great historical significance and value, it is evident that the gold mining industry is working hard to bring the sector into the 21st century and beyond. Professionals such as Weir are leading the charge in engineering solutions to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability.