Energy 2023: The Future of Mining

October 2019

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In "2020: The Near Future of Mining", our Natural Resources practice leaders in the U.S., as well as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the UK, offered their predictions for the mining industry domestically and around the world.

We predicted that by 2020, robots, renewables and the Internet of Things (IoT) would be the main drivers of change—necessitating a greater focus on cybersecurity and leading to greater demand for supply chain transparency.

Since we released our predictions in December 2017, a storm of external pressures has been hitting mining organizations. These include a period of mostly low commodity prices, growing calls from external stakeholders for mining companies to have good environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs, and increased geopolitical tensions that have created uncertainty around demand for raw materials. Mining companies are also undergoing unprecedented levels of innovation around IoT technologies and are up against greater cybersecurity threats.

As a result, most of our 2020 predictions are trending in the right direction, albeit at differing levels of progression. Using a heatmap, our global leaders have codified how our 2020 predictions have fared so far around the world. Higher values indicate predictions that have progressed more quickly. As we reflect on how the mining industry has evolved since we made our initial predictions, we also offer our take on how the mining industry will evolve by 2023.

By 2023, here’s our predictions for how innovation, paired with evolving mining priorities, will change the industry:

1. The U.S. will break into the top five producers of battery metals, as new technology unlocks American resources and national policy around critical metals spurs investment and development of these projects. Demand for copper in electric vehicles will also support the U.S. mining industry further.

2. The importance of a digital workforce will become more vital as automated mines prove to be 20 percent more profitable than their manually operated counterparts. It will be easier to bring new talent into the pipeline but continue to be difficult to retain them in the face of differing generational and cultural attitudes towards digital transformation across organizations.

3. Technology that reduces the environmental footprint of mines will become the new norm, as miners reduce costs using renewable energy and minimize their impact on water resources. This will come to pass through the continued proliferation of legislation regulating the use of water for industrial purposes and improved metal and industrial water recycling methods.