Rising productivity, alongside exploration, is the principal means by which mining can combat resource depletion. Over the past one hundred and fifty years, the mining industry has been remarkably successful in growing its productivity. However, since 2000 there are signs of a slowdown. Some aspects of this are clearly cyclical but there are increasing concerns that some of the underlying, longer term, factors which have kept productivity growing in the past are losing their force. Key amongst these factors are the physical contributions that the second industrial revolution, beginning in the late nineteenth century, brought to mining, most notably in the form of larger equipment operating in larger mines. There is much discussion in the industry around the arrival of a fourth industrial revolution and how this might ‘disrupt’ the sector and deliver a new boost to productivity through the promotion of intelligent mining but thus far there is little the evidence of such a boost. In its absence, the mining industry faces the prospect of rising costs as grades fall and waste volumes grow.
- Fourth industrial revolution
- Mining costs