A quiet revolution is taking place in the mining sector, as knowledge and technologies learned from space exploration are being used to enhance productivity, reduce emissions, and improve outcomes for workers and communities. The transfer of expertise and technology between these two sectors is fostering cross-sector collaboration and finding solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Both the space industry and modern resource businesses share similarities in their need for a smaller footprint, zero-carbon emission operations, and data-driven decision-making. These sectors operate in sensitive and challenging environments and prioritize the safety of their employees and the surrounding ecosystems.
The mining sector has much to gain from the space industry. Technological advancements in precision exploration, resource planning, mineral detection sensors, in-situ extraction, and safety systems can provide valuable insights and applications in space. Additionally, the space sector can benefit from the experience and innovations of miners on Earth.
As demand for critical minerals rises to meet global decarbonization goals, it is crucial for mining companies to integrate new technologies and approaches to problem-solving. By reducing costs and emissions, mining companies can gain support from governments and local communities. Post-carbon technologies, such as solar energy and battery storage systems, have been advanced through space exploration, and the systems engineering approach developed for space projects is increasingly adopted in terrestrial resources.
Leading mining and oil and gas companies in Australia are collaborating with space-focused businesses, researchers, and industry organizations to drive innovation and technology transfer between the two sectors. This collaboration model enables mining professionals to gain new knowledge and problem-solving methods.
The AROSE consortium is a notable example of this collaboration, aiming to grow Australia’s space industry by bringing together resources and other industries to tackle tough challenges. The consortium’s Trailblazer Lunar Rover project allows space-capable businesses and resources companies to pursue shared technology opportunities.
NASA has recognized the benefits of this collaboration and has already engaged in workshops with AROSE, focusing on the intersections between the space and resources sectors. This collaboration presents a unique opportunity for the mining industry to achieve long-term, sustainable growth while addressing the challenges of decarbonization.
Automation and robotics, remote operations, geoscience, satellite communications, artificial intelligence, systems engineering, waste minimization, digital design, and data analytics are some of the areas where space and mining can collaborate.
The mining industry traditionally prioritizes commercial decisions, while the space industry focuses on technical system engineering. This difference in approach may be a fundamental disconnect, but it also creates opportunities for rethinking the mining value chain and altering the traditional flowchart.
In conclusion, space exploration is inspiring a revolution in the mining sector, with cross-sector collaboration leading to technological advancements and shared knowledge. By integrating space technologies and approaches, the mining industry can navigate the complexities and costs associated with mining while prioritizing sustainability and environmental stewardship.