With the current geopolitical climate, it has been difficult to predict how long the silver price boost will last or when the war will end. However, a three-percent increase in the world’s supply is expected in 2022 due to increased mine production through project ramp-ups, ongoing output improvements at existing mines, and an increase in industrial recycling. The increase in supply and output is good news for continuing post-pandemic recovery, as demand in jewelry, silverware, and industrial applications is predicted to increase by five percent.
There’s no doubt that the mining and metals industry is undergoing a significant change as it begins to implement new technologies to promote safety and accuracy and manage sustainability projects that protect the environment and surrounding ecosystems. By focusing on innoovative A.I., the Internet of Things (IoT) and self-driving tools and equipment, the industry is preparing to meet the demand of an evolving economy by boosting production and supply.
With a predicted four percent increase, industrial recycling is expected to rise for the third consecutive year in 2022. Recovery of silver from ancient jewelry and silverware will also make a small contribution. The needs of the work-from-home economy, a surge in consumer electronics, investments in 5G infrastructure, the building of inventory throughout the supply pipeline, and the expansion of sustainable projects in the green economy, particularly in photovoltaics, have also been encouraging drivers.
Here’s how mining companies can stay ahead and boost production and output:
Reducing operational emissions
To mitigate the climate crisis, scientists urge governments to decarbonize their energy systems, including mining tools and equipment, which primarily rely on diesel. The best-positioned mining businesses to market low-carbon premium minerals are companies that are starting to use renewables to power their operations, use electric or hydrogen-powered truck fleets, and integrate recycling into their value chains.
Data and technology
Companies will need to explore hard-to-access mining areas. That’s because traditional mineral resources in low-risk areas become exhausted. Successful mining companies are mastering new technologies for extraction and processing and are using automation and digitalization tools to develop more targeted and efficient mining practices. These innovations include in-situ leaching, which recovers minerals like copper and uranium through holes drilled into deposits; block caving, which employs gravity to access deep ore bodies; and biomining, which uses prokaryotes or fungi to remove metals from ores and other solid materials. Deep sea and asteroid mining are also on the exploration agenda for governments and companies.
Modernizing the mining workforce
Employees of mining companies will need to pick up new skills due to rapidly changing business models and technology. To advance their digitalization and automation processes, mining companies will have to increasingly compete with the I.T. sector for the top talent colleges offer. In addition, governments and businesses will need to collaborate to help retrain and transition workers whom a mechanized mining sector cannot absorb to alternative pursuits. Finally, accepting reduced employment and procurement prospects by the host government and labour unions will play a significant role in how quickly mining companies can implement new technology at their mine sites.
Can you create jobs for our communities? It’s one of the first questions that stakeholders will ask. The opposition to mining is likely to increase if no business-government partnership deals are developed to benefit the affected communities. Mining businesses will need to gather and process enormous volumes of data as they automate and digitalize their processes. Investors will use a litany of non-financial data to assess the risks of their mining portfolios better, governments will continue to push companies to go above and beyond internationally recognized standards, and consumers will push for increased value chain transparency. Impacted communities show increasing interest in accessing data capturing mining operations’ externalities.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mining and precious metals industries, but it also gives businesses a chance to review their plans and improve. Companies should internalize their demands and consider what the future of mining looks like for themselves, feeling the energy transition, supply chain issues, technological advancements, and other developments influencing the mining industry.