The mining industry is seeing an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) investment across several key metrics, according to an analysis of GlobalData data.

AI is gaining an increasing presence across multiple sectors, with top companies completing more AI deals, hiring for more AI roles and mentioning it more frequently in company reports at the start of 2021.

GlobalData’s thematic approach to sector activity seeks to group key company information on hiring, deals, patents and more by topic to see which companies are best placed to weather the disruptions coming to their industries.

These themes, of which AI is one, are best thought of as “any issue that keeps a CEO awake at night”, and by tracking them it becomes possible to ascertain which companies are leading the way on specific issues and which are dragging their heels.

One area in which there has been some decrease in AI investment among mining companies is in the number of deals. GlobalData show that there were five AI deals in mining in the first quarter of 2019. By the first quarter of 2021, that number was four.

Hiring patterns within the mining sector as a whole are pointing towards an increase in the level of attention being shown to AI-related roles. There was a monthly average of 46 actively advertised-for open AI roles within the industry in April this year, up from a monthly average of 35 in December 2020.

It is also apparent from an analysis of keyword mentions in financial filings that AI is occupying the minds of mining companies to an increasing extent.

There have been 62 mentions of AI across the filings of the biggest mining companies so far in 2021, equating to 4.0% of all tech theme mentions. This figure represents an increase compared to 2016, when AI represented 2.9% of the tech theme mentions in company filings.

AI is increasingly fueling innovation in the mining sector, particularly in the past six years. There were, on average, 2.4 mining patents related to AI granted each year from 2000 to 2014. That figure has risen to an average of 8.4 patents since then, reaching 13 in 2020.