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Miners speed up automation as covid-19 impacts linger

Miners are accelerating the digitalization of work processes. (Image courtesy of Business Unit Automation at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology.)

About 20% of people currently working in the mining and metals industry are at risk of being replaced by robots as companies accelerate the adoption of automation in light of the ongoing covid-19-related restrictions, a new study shows.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest “Future of Jobs” report, 79% of mining companies are accelerating the digitalization of work processes and adoption of tools, such as video conferencing. From that total, 26.3% are speeding up the automation of tasks.

While the figures are below global averages — 50% of companies are accelerating automation and 84% digitization — they show an ongoing shift towards how to mine and by who.

Source: “Future of Jobs 2020” | World Economic Forum.

The report identifies technology proficiency, analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility as the top skills mining employers are looking for when it comes to hiring and replacing workers.

“Covid-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work,” said WEF Managing Director Saadia Zahidi. “Accelerating automation and the fallout from the covid-19 recession has deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008.”

New labour division

By 2025, automation and a new division of labour between humans and machines will disrupt 85 million jobs globally in medium and large businesses across 15 industries and 26 economies, the experts warn.

Roles in areas such as data entry, accounting and administrative support will continue to decrease while demand for professionals in automation and digitization will continue to surge. 

The digitalization agenda of miners has strained relations with the unions, who fear the need for manual labour will fall to a minimum.

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