signe8_STEPHANE DE SAKUTINAFP via Getty Images_south africa miners STEPHANE DE SAKUTINAFP via Getty Images

Digitalizing Africa's Mines

Artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics can help Africa’s mining companies optimize their operations and enable them to capitalize on growing demand for the minerals they produce. But new technology also brings new challenges that firms and governments must be ready to confront.

WASHINGTON, DC – Mineral resources are a critical source of revenue for Africa. In 2019, minerals and fossil fuels accounted for more than a third of exports from at least 60% of African countries. The continent produces around 80% of the world’s platinum, two-thirds of its cobalt, half of its manganese, and a substantial amount of chromium, leaving it in a strong position to benefit from growing demand for these minerals. Moreover, Africa is believed to have some of the world’s largest untapped mineral reserves.

Unfortunately, a lack of systematic geological mapping and exploration means that the full scope of the continent’s resources remains unknown. To unlock mineral-rich African countries’ full potential, mining companies and African governments must embrace Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and big data can help mining firms limit damage to the environment, improve working conditions, reduce operating costs, and boost productivity.

The adoption of efficient renewable-energy systems already is helping the mining sector reduce its environmental impact. Autonomous 4IR technologies complement the clean-energy transition by cutting fuel consumption in processes such as loading, hauling, crushing, and drilling. According to one estimate, driverless technology could lead to a 10-15% decrease in fuel use on mine sites.

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