If the last year has taught the mining industry anything, it would be the sheer unpredictability of the sector. Commodity prices continued to dip toward unprecedented lows as the anticipated resurgence of commodities appears further away than the industry had hoped. Miners are left to expect more potentially bad news in 2016.

But that’s not to say there are no longer opportunities to shave costs, improve productivity, and position for the upswing. Deloitte’s ‘Tracking the Trends 2016’ report details several strategies that will help companies navigate the mine field that is today’s mining industry. Their top strategy is investment in innovation.

Beyond improvements in energy consumption, miners can focus on automating both processes and vehicles to achieve significant productivity gains. In an article to World Coal, ABB’s Adrian Beer suggested that the integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) can help miners achieve dramatic efficiency gains.

"(IT / OT convergence) allows the entire operation to optimise its production processes to maximise efficiency improvements, sometimes as high as 5% to 10%, which are results that drop straight to the bottom line."

As sensors become increasingly affordable and as equipment becomes more internet-capable, mining companies will be able to collect and analyse large amounts of data enabling them to pinpoint drains on productivity.

Mobius Command and Control software allows unmanned vehicles to perform in hazardous areas without endangering the operator.

"The move toward autonomous vehicles and automated technologies has already revolutionised mining operations," reads Deloitte.

"As the ‘intelligence’ of these machines grows, they will be able to perform increasingly complex tasks, including hazardous activities–reducing labour costs and enhancing productivity as a result."

Mining major Rio Tinto demonstrated in numbers released in October that a network of autonomous haul trucks in the Pilbara region outperformed a manned fleet by an average of 12%.

Investment in innovation holds many benefits to mining companies, but this is only one of the suggestions offered by the mining experts at Deloitte.