Mining data

Technical and digital innovations can help the mining sector improve its sagging productivity.

When we say “data mining,” we don’t usually mean using data in mines. But that’s what a McKinsey report proposes to do in order to save a mining industry that has seen its productivity fall by 28% from 2004 to 2014.

The report, How Digital Innovation Can Improve Mining Productivity, says miners currently use only 1% of the data their equipment generates. Better use of data and other digital innovations would lead to better ore mining — and better prospects of profits in an industry where falling commodity prices are squeezing cash flow.

For example, companies could embed vast numbers of sensors in physical objects in order to generate large amounts of data for analysis. “Miners already produce huge amounts of sensor data, potentially enabling them to obtain a more accurate and consistent picture of reality at the rock face than ever,” says the report.  

The report cites the example of a gold mine that saw the gold grade of its base ore fall by about 20%, causing considerable financial strain. It used advanced data analytics to optimize its leaching extraction process and managed within three months to increase average yields by 3% to 4%, which translated into a sustainable $10 to $20 million rise in profits.