• Victor Genin

Creating an Environment of Innovation: Using AI to Achieve Environmental Sustainability in Mining

In 2018, demand for natural resources was so high that it would have taken 1.7 Earths to sustain it. By 2030, humanity will reach the point where it will take two.

As the industry that provides the materials for almost everything under the sun, the mining sector has an obligation to ensure it does its part to achieve environmental sustainability. Historically, this has been a challenging thing to accomplish while also maintaining profitable operations, which is one of the reasons the industry used to draw so much fire from environmentalists. Nowadays, however, many mining companies are actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints and ensure future generations will have the same access to natural resources as the current one.

And one major tool they are using to accomplish this is Artificial Intelligence.

AI-knowledge solutions are proving themselves essential in increasing the sustainability of mining sites, in many cases by allowing them to become more efficient. These complex solutions use algorithms that are fine-tuned to create optimal production scenarios, meaning mining companies are able to meet their quotas by inputting fewer resources than before. For example, an AI-generated recommendation may cause a process that previously would have required a large amount of water to only need a small amount. This also means the process would create less wastewater. Recently, a team of Finnish researchers gave scientific support to the idea that simulating processes before running them can significantly reduce water use.

The efficiency gains from AI knowledge will also help the mining industry grow more sustainable by increasing the life-of-mine (LOM) at sites across the world. Defined as the time period over which reserves can be extracted from a single mine, increasing LOM is a major goal for mining companies across the world. AI knowledge can be used to find mineral deposits within existing sites, extract materials more easily, and reduce the need for equipment repairs. This makes it possible to gain more from single mining sites, encouraging sustainability by reducing the need for mining companies to begin extracting from new sites.

Because of AI knowledge, environmental sustainability is now a more achievable goal for mining companies than ever before. However, there needs to be a concerted effort at both the company and international levels to ensure this technology is used for good. Initiatives like Microsoft’s AI for Earth program—which offers grants to fund innovations in AI that follow the company’s ethical principles—are essential in encouraging the establishment of AI as an ally in the fight against climate change, as is the establishment of partnerships between industrial corporations and clean-tech companies.

Mining companies that embrace AI knowledge will undoubtedly see increased profits and productivity, and it is crucial they make the effort to ensure the integration of this technology will lead to increased environmental sustainability as well. For any company hoping to reduce its carbon footprint and leave the world a better place for future generations, AI-knowledge systems are the ultimate way to achieve sustainability and economic goals concurrently.

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