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COP26: Can AI decarbonise mining?

Following COP26, sustainability and decarbonisation efforts are all the more crucial for attracting sustained investment. So how can AI help metals and mining kickstart these initiatives?

15 December 2021

Contributors

contact-Sasha Suzdaleva

Sasha Suzdaleva

Community Marketing Manager

As metals and mining companies seek to cut their emissions and court investment, what role can artificial intelligence (AI) play in helping the industry decarbonise? That was the question of the hour on 14 December as a panel of technology experts convened before a virtual audience of exclusive Axora Community members.

Hosted by Axora Account Director Mark Fraser and featuring AI and advanced analytics experts from Vale, Minerva Intelligence and Antofagasta, “COP26: Can AI decarbonise mining?” looked across the value chain to determine the unique sustainability opportunities that companies can harness.

If big players like Tesla and Samsung will need to rely on metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium to power their innovations, it’s in their interest to share AI resources that can help mining companies extract and process those materials in a more sustainable way.

It’s a pressing topic in the wake of the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, which only underlines the significance of the impending energy transition. With investors and the general public increasingly prioritising sustainability, metals and mining organisations are set to take the lead in producing the materials needed for green technologies. To do so, they’ll need to address their own emissions. AI is set to play a major part in achieving that goal.

Recycling materials and adopting more sustainable exploration and processing methods will go a long way in addressing the gap. There’s also room for tech companies to get involved, says Samuel Cantor, Section Head of Economic Geology at Minerva Intelligence. If big players like Tesla and Samsung will need to rely on metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium to power their innovations, it’s in their interest to share AI resources that can help mining companies extract and process those materials in a more sustainable way.

“The tech community is a massive consumer of the products of the minerals industry, but typically hasn’t been an active participant,” he notes. “When you look at the market cap of all the mining companies against the market cap of any of the big tech firms, you see there’s a huge disparity. [Tech companies] are all dependent on this industry that is, at its core, much smaller, but they have a tremendous amount to benefit from improving the outcomes of the mining industry.”

Mining companies can no longer afford the luxury of being late adopters.

Those outcomes will largely revolve around improving efficiency, especially at a time when metals and mining organisations are at a tipping point, dealing with rising costs and declining resources. Through applications like process optimisation, AI will be a crucial driver of cost savings for many in the near term. But according to Michael Roy, Lead AI Analyst from Vale, this will ultimately have a knock-on effect on emissions as well, eliminating waste and allowing companies to do more with less.

Of course, the key to unlocking these sustainability benefits is to get started in earnest. Vale Artificial Intelligence Executive Edson Antonio said it best when he explained that mining companies can no longer afford the luxury of being late adopters. So how can the industry use AI to start their decarbonisation journey in earnest?

For Antonio, the logical first step is to harness AI to find inefficiencies in areas like shipping, where improved timing can have a major impact on both ROI and emissions. By tying these benefits together, innovation departments can make a more convincing business case for continued technology adoption.

Regardless of how they get started, metals and mining companies need to proactively decarbonise their operations. Artificial intelligence can help them do just that.

Sign up to the Axora Community now to access the full discussion and learn more about how AI can help the metals and mining industry reach its decarbonisation goals. 

15 December 2021

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