Technology is transforming mines from dark and dangerous workplaces to highly-automated production centers. Roselle Chen reports.
Zinc mining 21st Century style in Sweden. This vehicle operator still takes an elevator several hundred metres down into the mine every day, but he no longer sits at the wheel of his truck. Instead he controls it remotely, a safe distance from the face where the ore containing precious metals is mined. SOUNDBITE (Swedish) VEHICLE OPERATOR TUMUKA KARAGUROV SAYING: "It takes time to learn to drive - it has to stick in your mind. It's quite tough in the beginning but when you've been driving for a while it's easy." When the ore is mined, the engineers monitoring the extraction process no longer do so in the noisy environment of the machine room. Instead, they use cameras and sensors to follow the entire process from a hi-tech control room, remotely taking control of valves and machines when necessary. SOUNDBITE (Swedish) JENNY GOTTHARDSSON, GENERAL MANAGER OF THE GARPENBERG MINE, SAYING: "We're doing this because it's one way to keep developing our operation so that we can continue to be competitive in what we do, both to increase productivity and also to increase security. My experience is that our personnel are very positive toward increased automation and the way we use the information. They are very keen to be involved, to find new ways to use technology and the information it generates to improve our business." Mining firm Boliden works closely with other big Swedish companies like Volvo and Ericsson to develop and implement new technologies. Boliden officials expect more automation in the future, removing some of the dangerous tasks associated with extracting precious metals from the earth.