Monday, October 10, 2011

Is Mining about to go Micro - Post 5

What is the advantage

So what is the advantage of this idea? How could a 'many small' system of movers compare to a 'few large' system that currently exists.

Haul Trucks
Flying microbots
Capital expenditure
$5 million each
Maybe $5.00 each (in the long run) but you'd need a lot of them.
Ongoing Maintenance
Complex, expensive
Disposable individuals but may still be significant.
Many people needed to support operations of haul trucks - drivers, water carts, graders etc etc.
Very few - supervisors located remotely.
Significant cost
Very little - solar powered.
Roads, ramps etc - significant, in fact determines long term viability of the mine
Little - no roads etc.
It System support
Significant number of systems to help manage all aspects.
Significant (but not so much as current state)

The economic viability of this idea has not yet been modelled, but as with all technologies, the costs reduce over time, and with take-up. A single mine using flying microbots would probably be enough to reach those long run efficiencies in terms of manufacture of the robots, and continuing advances in solar power technology mean that the path to sufficient power resources for this idea is quite predictable.

For me the biggest single effect lies in the ability to change the dynamics of pit morphology. By not having to step the pit back to get to deeper parts of the orebody, the options for continuing mine operations to depth are very different.

There is no doubt that flying dragonfly robots will not replace haul trucks in the next 5 years or maybe ever. Even though most of the technologies are in place, or being researched now, there is still a while before they'll be bought together to this one task. But there is one thing that technology futurists well understand. The pace of technological innovation is relentless, is accelerating, and most people underestimate what can be done, and when.

Solar dragonfly robot
A solar powered dragonfly  see more here

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