Ore scarcity pecks at mining profit margins. As the minerals run dry, the tunnels cut deeper. Meanwhile, the demand for building site aggregate is spiking for the umpteenth time. There’s simply not enough excavated gravel and slate coming out of these hard-pressed quarries to feed the construction industry. Thankfully, modern crushing and screening methods are on the rise. They utilize new technological solutions, including mobile plant operations.
Instead of crisscrossing roadways within our aging quarries, mobile equipment is taking the whole show offroad while delivering the latest bleeding-edge quarrying features. Driverless and semi-automated, the software-driven mobile rigs excavate riprap and other rock-based commodities. A power shovel rolls up to the raw material, which then feeds that excavated rock to a series of mobile crushers and mobile screens. The single output line exits the screening units, branches to convey several differently sized aggregate streams, and these ranks of stacked material amass, perhaps until a wheel loader and dumper make their way over.
Volatile markets cause weak global demand, although some ores are immune from the fickle trends that shape the commodities market. Copper and iron are always in demand, as are the rare earths that push the electronics sector. Special processing chains come into play when these precious elements are scooped out of the ground. Intricate mill heads cut the rare rocks free, then they’re electrically charged and transported to a frothy floatation station, where chemical reagents take on the role of the screening equipment. Essentially, the chemicals break down the rock, then the bubbles in the floatation pool collect the electrically charged particles. Intelligently engineered mechanical transportation tech is very much in evidence here, but it’s backed by a large number of electrochemical processes.
Mining and quarrying management methods cut costs by refining the processing chain, by incorporating these mobile rigs and electronically actuated commodity streams. On top of the well-trained engineers and geologists, automated machines are entering a realm that was once reserved for these two-legged pioneers. Now, with driverless trucks and self-regulating drills actually on location, the information technology field is making itself at home. Sensors and cameras, WiFi access and robotic miners, all of these assets have a place here, deep in the mines or orbiting those mobile quarrying machines.
Technology comes to the rescue. Is this future automated? Perhaps the equipment will be run by feedback circuitry and sensors, but there will always be a need for real people, folk who can repair the equipment and still go where no robot can move. Meanwhile, screening tech is already receiving a makeover. Sorted by vibrating panels and specially sized apertures, scanning science is refining the process. Expect to hear more about electromagnetic and X-ray transmission screening in the near future, for these smarter screening methods could very well transform the industry.