Mining must be profitable, but socially and environmentally compatible, too. At the same time, mine operators are faced with operational challenges associated with far-reaching changes in the way they use energy and interact with the environment as well as new training standards and innovative processes. With regard to the AIMS series of conference, which has already been in existence for 20 years, an important concern of Prof. Lottermoser after he took over the Chair and direction of the Institute of Mineral Resources Engineering at RWTH University of Aachen in 2015 was a stronger international orientation and a holistic – also interdisciplinary – perspective and discussion on aspects of mining. Besides the purely technological development, macrosocial aspects, especially socioeconomic, energy and environmental policy aspects must be taken into consideration.
Against this background, the superbly organized 1st International Conference on “Mines of the Future” was directed at experts in the mining industry, consulting firms, plant engineering companies, software providers, members of research institutes and government offices as well as scientists and researchers at universities. A total of 234 attendees from 30 countries and all continents discussed the latest developments and activities in the mining industry and research which point the way forward for the future of mining.
Besides four plenary lectures, which addressed mining on a small scale, the future of European mining, the fourth industrial revolution in the mining industry and the use of biotechnology in mineral and metal extraction, parallel events focussed on “Technological developments and innovations”, “Responsible and sustainable mining” and “Optimized processes and performance comparison” with the presentation of specific content.
In addition, on the first day of the conference, one section was devoted to the EU Horizon 2020 IMP@CT project, in which all project partners involved – including the MRE – reported on their respective research findings and activities. Goal of the IMP@CT project is to develop a switch-on switch-off operating system that enables the feasibility of small-scale mining projects at complex metallic deposits and at the same time promotes sustainable extraction of the raw materials in line with demand. In this connection, mobile and modular extraction and processing equipment is to be developed to lower the investment threshold for new mine operators, combat a geographical production concentration as well as to enable sustainable raw materials extraction and utilization of deposits.
A total of 52 papers, 26 poster presentations as well as 11 companies presenting their latest products and processes showed a diverse and creative approach to the conference topic and formed an excellent basis for lively exchange of ideas and forward-looking conclusions. The question whether mining in the future should look any different than today was also the central issue for the concluding panel discussion with six international experts from science, research and industry – this against the background of different competences, experiences and expectations and with a view to the future challenges with which mining in Europe, but also worldwide is confronted.
Prof. Lottermoser summed up: “With this conference in Aachen, we have created a platform for good discussions. But in addition, it is important for attendees to take the ideas away with them and implement these professionally to make any change in the long term. Mining will continue to exist as mineral resources are an important element for the further development and improvement of people‘s quality of life.“ The discussion about the future of mining will therefore be continued – at the latest at the 2nd International Conference "Mines of the Future" which will take place on 13 and 14 June 2019 in Aachen.