Exploration and extraction technology refers to all technologies employed during the life cycle of a mine. They include GPS, new drilling technologies, 3d mapping and geomodelling through to remote operation centres, autonomous equipment and process controls. These technologies can improve the success of exploration activities, reduce the environmental impact of mining and improve productivity of operational mines. Innovations have accelerated recently due to the need to enhance safety, improve productivity and control costs, with 48,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry in the last three years alone, according to GlobalData’s report on Extraction Technology in Mining: Ore Pre-Treatment.

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 350,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the mining industry, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Ore pre-treatment is a key innovation area in extraction technology

Ore pre-treatment, which is usually performed before grinding, creates intergranular cracks that make grinding easier, resulting in a reduction in grinding energy. Some of the pre-treatment methods include thermal, chemical additives, electric, magnetic, ultrasonic, bio-milling and radio frequency. As quality resources dwindle and more fine particles need to be processed in a stable and optimised manner, pre-treatment becomes necessary. Demand for energy-efficient grinding pre-treatment methods will increase as high-grade resources deplete and environmental constraints related to reject disposal become more stringent.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of ore pre-treatment.

Key players in ore pre-treatment – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to ore pre-treatment

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
JFE Holdings 292 Unlock company profile
Vale 219 Unlock company profile
POSCO Holdings 210 Unlock company profile
Metso Outotec 203 Unlock company profile
Kobe Steel 76 Unlock company profile
Nemaska Lithium 51 Unlock company profile
Outokumpu 46 Unlock company profile
Ansteel Group 41 Unlock company profile
Aurubis 39 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Steel 39 Unlock company profile
China Baowu Steel Group 32 Unlock company profile
Siemens VAI Metals Technologies 21 Unlock company profile
ENEOS Holdings 19 Unlock company profile
Teck Resources 19 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 19 Unlock company profile
K+S 11 Unlock company profile
Jeffery Steel 7 Unlock company profile
Barrick Gold 7 Unlock company profile
BHP 7 Unlock company profile
Jinchuan Group 6 Unlock company profile
Tata Steel 6 Unlock company profile
Dundee Resources 5 Unlock company profile
South32 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading companies include Metso Outotec, which has a Feed Pre-treatment System (FPS) that expands the range of sulphide concentrates and residue materials that can be treated in a roasting plant. The FPS can help roasting plant operators meet critical operational key performance indicators such as increased capacity and product quality. Furthermore, there are environmental benefits such as lower dust emissions and fewer tailings produced. Sulphur and zinc-containing residues, such as sulphur residue from the Metso Outotec direct leaching process, sulphur residue from the Metso Outotec Pure Jarosite process, can be recycled using this process. Similarly, the company's BIOX process for treating refractory gold concentrates has produced over 22 million ounces of gold. In various climate conditions, BIOX plants have treatment capacities ranging from 20 to 2,137 tonnes per day of flotation concentrate.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Mining.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article. 

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.