As we approach National Miners Day on Dec. 6, we acknowledge the sacrifices of our nation’s miners and their contributions to nearly every facet of our lives. While many things remain a constant within the industry, much has changed as well.
For as long as American industry has existed, Americans have benefitted from the energy, metals and minerals made available by miners. The mining industry drives our supply chain, fueling a third of our power grid and providing essential materials for manufacturing and infrastructure projects across the U.S. From airplanes and hybrid cars to national defense and medical technologies, minerals like beryllium, chromium, molybdenum, titanium, platinum, nickel, copper, kyanite and iron all make it possible.
And while America’s miners deliver the same unwavering commitment to hard work that has been the mining industry’s trademark for centuries, the mining industry is also changing.
Today’s mining industry is harnessing advanced technologies – from autonomous vehicles to drones, virtual reality to predictive maintenance – to work smarter, more quickly and more safely. In fact, 20 American mining operations were recently recognized by NMA and partnering federal agencies for their safety, environmental and technological accomplishments in 2016. Among the winners were NMA members Barrick Gold, North American Coal, Teck American, Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy, Contura Energy, Freeport McMoRan, Kinross Gold and Peabody.
Freeport-McMoRan was awarded for its use of technology to safeguard employees by using drones. Rather than send workers into hazardous areas to survey mine sites, the mining company began using a drone to give them a bird’s eye view of their mine environment. The use of drones reduces the risk of falls, electrocutions, injury or death from highwall failures, and it provides an extra measure of safety for mine operators who no longer have to venture out to hazardous locations for a first look.
Kinross Gold Corporation developed and redesigned strike hammers engineered to control airborne contaminants and prevent hot, loose slag from ejecting when workers fracture slag in assay molds. This redesign offers greater protection to fire assay technicians.
Peabody was recognized for pioneering and installing new seat belt technology in haul trucks that prevent driver injury during sudden jolts of rollover events. The new system has been installed in five haul trucks, with more systems on border with the partner company.
Mining is as fundamental today as it was two hundred years ago, only it has become more automated and safe through modern and advanced technologies. The next generation of miners get to experience a sophisticated industry fit with laptop computers, digital specialists and electronic monitoring devices.
While one day each year is set aside to honor these professionals, miners continue to remain a celebrated part of America’s 21st century workforce – and with a focus on advancing mining technology, safety and education, they will continue to be for many more years to come.