The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need to enhance safety, improve productivity and control costs, and the growing importance of technologies such as automation, 3D mapping and geomodelling, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). These technologies can improve the success of exploration activities, reduce the environmental impact of mining, improve productivity of operational mines, and, in the case of tunnel ventilation systems, enhance both safety and efficiency. In the last three years alone, there have been over 62,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in mining: remote surface miningBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 70,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the mining industry, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Remote surface mining is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Remote surface mining refers to the use of autonomous vehicles and control systems to perform mining operations without the direct presence of human operators. These autonomous vehicles are equipped with communication interfaces and advanced control systems that allow them to perform predetermined missions and tasks in surface mining operations. The use of remote surface mining technology enables safer and more efficient mining operations by reducing the risk to human workers and optimizing the utilization of mining resources. The popularity of autonomous haul trucks continues to grow across surface mines, with miners taking advantage of improvements to productivity, reductions in accidents and operating costs, increased machine life and tyre life, and lower fuel consumption.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of remote surface mining.

Key players in remote surface mining – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to remote surface mining

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Sandvik 73 Unlock Company Profile
Epiroc 29 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu 20 Unlock Company Profile
Liebherr-International 6 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 5 Unlock Company Profile
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 5 Unlock Company Profile
Atlas Copco 4 Unlock Company Profile
Rio Tinto 3 Unlock Company Profile
Sandvik Tamrock 1 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 1 Unlock Company Profile
JRL Coal 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Sandvik, Epiroc and Komatsu are among the leading patent filers in remote surface mining. Epiroc’s BenchREMOTE is a one-of-a-kind remote operator station that transforms mining operations safer and more efficient. It pushes the boundaries in surface mining automation. One operator can control up to three rigs from the same station and drill close to the wall without requiring anyone to be present in the drilling area. Furthermore, BenchREMOTE significantly reduces the operator's exposure to noise and dust. It is also possible to group several BenchREMOTE stations together to improve direct communication between operators and management.

Meanwhile, Sandvik's entry-level smart teleoperation solution AutoMine® makes it simple to tap into the full potential of Sandvik equipment automation, while improving productivity, safety, and cost efficiency in mining operations.

In terms of application diversity, Atlas Copco leads the pack, while Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Epiroc stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sandvik held the top position, followed by Epiroc and Komatsu.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Mining.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.