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The Underground Digital Technology Arms Race

2 Mins read

Deswik has grown its market share within the mining software sector over the past decade by offering a complete and modern CAD package. Their growth can be attributed to several main factors, including employing industry experts (in both Mining Engineering and Software Development) to deliver ongoing development of the package, along with background integration between several different parts of the design technical process. It has now seemingly edged out rivals to become the industry standard for underground mine design, drill & blast, scheduling and surveying.

Sandvik’s acquisition of Deswik is the latest in a long run of mining technology buy outs from the two Swedish underground powerhouse OEMs.

This week’s news that Sandvik had purchased the Australian-based mining software developer really caught my eye. The significant investment and expansion of the Swedish based mining giant into this new arena shows a continued trend toward the digital mining future. An investment that is simultaneously being undertaken by their major rivals at Epiroc.

The continued investment and M&A activities by both leading underground OEMs signifies a shift toward a future mining landscape. One where automation, data analytics and closed technology loops will become the norm.  The ongoing thirst for emerging mining tech start-ups could be called an “Underground Digital Technology Arms Race”, as concepts, ideas and product catalogs are merged into larger business offerings. This blending of knowledge and systems is something that we can expect to see impacting the industry in the next generation of both hardware and software, where integration and data flow will become a leading feature.

A chart outlining the acquisitions from both of the industry leading underground OEMs.

This side-by-side comparison of deals with, or acquisitions of mining technology business, highlights the movement within the sector toward integration and ultimately a holistic underground offering for almost all parts of project delivery.  The shape of the underground equipment industry in a decade from now appears to be one of continued consolidation and business alignment. Amalgamation of ideas and technologies with an integrated single point of delivery could be fantastic for new features and value add. Issues with cross compatibility and integration could be bypassed by full system ownership from one supplier. It would allow for a mining project to potentially purchase all software, hardware, and associated consumables from one singular point. Fast tracking value from the different systems that allow for an underground operation to progress.

However, it does potentially close out the opportunity for smaller start-ups and alternative ideas to grow within the industry. Digital networks could possibly be closed to supplementary technologies from smaller businesses outside the sphere of the “big two”.

Sandvik and Epiroc are really in the driver’s seat to deliver evolution in the industry through whole of project mining systems and this is something that really excites me. The future of the industry will no doubt be shaped by these businesses and the bodies of work within their separate R&D laboratories. I wait with bated breath as to what the next generation will hold as these two develop their digital offerings and compete for progress.

If you like my content and discussions on underground mining, please follow me on LinkedIn or Facebook. I continually strive to offer new and interesting content for those exploring new technologies and ideas for underground mining – so please send me an email if you would like to get involved.

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