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Don't count on many jobs from mining

Neil Buchan, Comox Valley Echo, February 07, 2012

Jobs? You've got to be raven.

One of the great points in selling coal mines, asbestos and indeed any mining operation has been massive job creation. This is echoed ad nausea.

A headline in Monday's Feb.6th. Globe and Mail, page B3 shows this job cry to be an empty anachronism.

"Miners look to a future of automation" and the following article by mine reporter Brenda Bouw suggest the "jobs, jobs, jobs" idea to be only an echo from the last century.

Bouw writes: "Most mines are already desolate, vast landscapes filled with the hum of haul trucks and only a few humans.

But in years to come they will be even more deserted, as more companies find ways to run their operations from control centers thousands of kilometers away.

Employees will work like traffic controllers..... including direction of drills, loaders and driverless haul trucks..."

Even now mines are being operated from thousands of miles away from the mine. Automated equipment deals with repetitive tasks, "waldos" (machine replicas in an office that send signals to distant actual machinery) can dig, sort, load, unload and transport mined materials.

The automated equipment can be operated from abroad, "Waldos" can be directed from space if necessary and are how moon or other space objects would be mined. Humans on the ground doing paid work at such mines are extremely few. Humans operating the machinery will be low paid offshore people. It is as easy as using a video game controller.

This is not something for the future but is now running at Rio Tinto's Australian mine in Pilbara but operated from a distant control center in Perth. Robotic mining tests are also underway in New Mexico.

The future is now.

Count on all kinds of things, but don't count on jobs!

© Comox Valley Echo 2012