The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by improved computing power and connected sensors to control and monitor the mining environment. Mining companies can increase efficiency, improve productivity and safety, and reduce costs on the mine site by adding internet connectivity and sensors to vehicles, machinery, and people. Examples of this include autonomous drilling, driverless haul trucks, and predictive maintenance. In addition, it is imperative to provide workers with clean, non-toxic air and sufficient oxygen in underground mines, and IoT sensors can monitor potential dangers, such as convergence or toxicity, in real-time. 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: tunnel safety monitoringBuy the report here.

Smarter leaders trust GlobalData

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.

Tunnel safety monitoring is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Tunnel safety monitoring helps to rescue people inside a tunnel and to maintain air quality and control spread of smoke in case of fire or a disaster. As mines become deeper, more remote, and technically more difficult, the ability to source tunnel safety devices becomes more important than ever. Global corporations are witnessing a technological revolution in the underground mining sector. Automation enables the safe and remote operation of equipment, while smart technology enables real-time performance monitoring to drive cost and productivity improvements. Devices such as drones, wearables, proximity detection sensors on moving machinery and vehicles, and scanners to identify different ore grades and feed this information through the mining value chain can all yield small but cumulative gains in productivity.

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 270+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of tunnel safety monitoring.

Key players in tunnel safety monitoring – 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 tunnel safety monitoring

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
China Railway Group 177 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 53 Unlock Company Profile
China Energy Investment 29 Unlock Company Profile
China Communications Construction Group 26 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 23 Unlock Company Profile
China State Construction Engineering 20 Unlock Company Profile
China General Nuclear Power 20 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President Enterprises 19 Unlock Company Profile
Yankuang Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
Huainan Mining Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
Jinneng Holding Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Sandvik 13 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 13 Unlock Company Profile
China National Petroleum 12 Unlock Company Profile
Ministry of Defence (UK) 12 Unlock Company Profile
The 2nd Engineering of China Railway 12th Bureau Group 11 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 11 Unlock Company Profile
Power Construction Corporation of China 11 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing LongRuan Technologies 9 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway 11Th Bureau Group No4 Engineering 9 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Hi-Speed Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Orica 8 Unlock Company Profile
Shanghai Construction Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Shanxi Tiandi Coal Mining Machinery 8 Unlock Company Profile
Epiroc 8 Unlock Company Profile
Shanghai Tunnel Engineering 8 Unlock Company Profile
Shanxi Coking Coal Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway First Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Tunnel Survey & Design Institue 7 Unlock Company Profile
Huaibei Mining 7 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
China Coal Handan Design Engineering 6 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 6 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway 14 Bureau Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Tunnel Stock 5 Unlock Company Profile
China National Coal Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
China Petrochemical 5 Unlock Company Profile
Pingdingshan Antaihua Mining Safety Equipment Manufacturing 5 Unlock Company Profile
Powerchina Roadbridge Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
China Coal Technology 4 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Gold Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Municipal Construction Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu 4 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Engineering Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
First Engineering Of China Railway 16Th Construction Bureau Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Dongshan Xinyi Coal Mine 4 Unlock Company Profile
Jingying Shuzhi Technology 4 Unlock Company Profile
Jiaozuo Coal Industrial Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Huaneng Group Technology Innovation Center 4 Unlock Company Profile
Schlumberger 4 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Sandvik, Epiroc, Caterpillar and Orica are some of the leading patent filers in tunnel safety monitoring. Sandvik’s OptiMine Mining Data Platform (MDP) service allows for real-time monitoring of machines, workers, equipment, and material underground in order to improve mine safety and productivity. Furthermore, the company offers the OptiMine Evacuation Assistant, which provides a visualization of an evacuation, searches for the nearest safe place underground and indicates the location of personnel who are guided to the nearest rescue chamber, based on the location and capacity of those chambers.

Meanwhile, Epiroc's Mobilaris Mining Intelligence platform improves safety by better and faster managing emergencies from a centralized location. The mobile-safety solution project is a collaboration between LKAB and Epiroc, and incorporates both existing Epiroc products and new development.

In terms of application diversity, Schlumberger leads the pack, while Orica and Komatsu stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, eChina General Nuclear Power held the top position, followed by Orica and Epiroc.

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.

Premium Insights


The gold standard of business intelligence.

Blending expert knowledge with cutting-edge technology, GlobalData’s unrivalled proprietary data will enable you to decode what’s happening in your market. You can make better informed decisions and gain a future-proof advantage over your competitors.


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.