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Mining innovations: 3 trends we'll see in the future

Mining IQ looks at three interesting -- and out of the box -- trends currently shaping innovation in the mining industry.Partnering with start-upsInnova...

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|May 13|magazine9 min read

Mining IQ looks at three interesting -- and out of the box -- trends currently shaping innovation in the mining industry.

Partnering with start-ups

Innovation has long been at the heart of mining, but as technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, mining companies need to look for new ways to leverage new tech to remain innovative and agile in a changing market.

Like other industries, the mining sectors is beginning to look at ways to leverage and learn from new entrants in the field to remain competitive and cost-effective.

Related content: Unearthed 2015: Inspiring innovation in mining

Newton Labs is the first new business to come out of the Resources Innovation through Information Technology (RIIT) program, which aims to launch 10 mining-focused start-ups each year.

The company took part in a 54-hour hackathon, answering the real industry challenges of major mining firms. The startup designed an innovative prototype to detect large boulders in hard-rock mining operations, which can cost the industry millions in lost time.

Autonomous ocean tailings monitoring

Deep sea mining may be in its infancy, but technology development in the new frontier is making leaps and bounds.

PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (PTNNT) has just completed a contract to montiro the tailings deposots at its Batu Hijau copper-gold mine in Indonesia.

As part of the operations, tailings from the mine were piped out over three kilometres into the ocean and deposited at a depth of over 4,000 meters, in line with the company’s environmental obligations.

Tonny Bachtiar, PT Newmont’s general supervisor environmental monitoring stated, “the monitoring project in our view was very successful and demonstrates our willingness to introduce new technology to show our commitment to the environment.”

Mining in space – a new frontier?

As miners continue their never-ending search for the next rich mineral deposit, some mining companies are setting their sights further than the horizon and into asteroid mining—an idea that is slowly gaining ground among a small but ambitious group of miners and investors. 

But the question is: Is it legal?

A New Zealand lawyer, with a specialization in international space law, says that whilst the legal basis of mining asteroids or satellites is “unclear”, there are no specific laws preventing the extraction of minerals for either commercial or scientific benefit.

Dr Maria Pozza predicts that the practice could be underway within the next decade and that there is no current legislation with sufficient provisions to restrict mineral activity in outer space.

It has been suggested that although there are 12,000 rock bodies around Earth that have potential to be mined, a piece of legislation from the 1960s may prevent any activity.

Under the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, countries cannot claim forms of national sovereignty over space.

WATCH: The Future of Asteroid Mining

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