The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need to enhance safety, improve productivity and control costs, and the growing importance of technologies such as automation, 3D mapping and geomodelling, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). These technologies can improve the success of exploration activities, reduce the environmental impact of mining, improve productivity of operational mines, and, in the case of tunnel ventilation systems, enhance both safety and efficiency. In the last three years alone, there have been over 62,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in mining: emergency rescue systems. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

40+ innovations will shape the mining industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the mining industry using innovation intensity models built on over 70,000 patents, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, tunnel ventilation systems, mine drainage systems, and tunnel lining construction are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Battery metal recycling, precision milling and virtual industrial monitoring are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are high performance drill bits and hybrid industrial vehicles, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the mining industry

Emergency rescue systems is a key innovation area in mining

The advancement of sensors has enabled devices, buildings, and clothing to become smart and connected. IoT solutions benefit all branches of emergency services in different ways. Mining operations use risk assessment processes to identify potential emergency events and circumstances. The mining site will need to consider the types of emergency equipment that can be used to mitigate the emergency as part of this process.

Emergency rescue equipment includes breathing apparatus, work at height equipment, confined space equipment, firefighting equipment, gas detection, rescue chambers and vehicles, and personal protective equipment to support the specific emergencies.

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 100+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of emergency rescue systems.

Key players in emergency rescue systems – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to emergency rescue systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
China Railway Group 45 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 20 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Metro Group 12 Unlock Company Profile
Sandvik 12 Unlock Company Profile
Henan Energy and Chemical Industry Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
China Communications Construction Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
Epiroc 7 Unlock Company Profile
China State Construction Engineering 6 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 6 Unlock Company Profile
Xi'An Kuoli Machanical and Electrical Technology 5 Unlock Company Profile
Atlas Copco 5 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 5 Unlock Company Profile
Changs Ascending Enterprise 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hunan Gold 4 Unlock Company Profile
Sanwa 4 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Energy Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
Jinneng Holding Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Expressway 3 Unlock Company Profile
Chengdu Tengyue Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
POSCO 2 Unlock Company Profile
China Shipbuilding Industry 750 Test Site 2 Unlock Company Profile
Chongqing Mas Sci and Tech 2 Unlock Company Profile
Shanxi Tiandi Coal Mining Machinery 2 Unlock Company Profile
China National Railway Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
Xi'An Zhongzhi Huize Photoelectric Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Changzhi Qinghua Machinery Factory 2 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing LongRuan Technologies 2 Unlock Company Profile
Yankuang Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Tongguan Mine Construction 2 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Kangwei Communication Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Industry Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
Huaneng Yunnan Diandong Energy 2 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Construction 2 Unlock Company Profile
Huainan Mining Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 2 Unlock Company Profile
Shaanxi Star Coal Mine Safety Equipment 2 Unlock Company Profile
China National Offshore Oil 2 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
Wuhan Dameng Database 1 Unlock Company Profile
Dongguan Lianzhou Intellectual Property Operation Management 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Communications 2nd Navigational Bureau 2nd Engineering 1 Unlock Company Profile
Henan Inst Engineering 1 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Hebei Electric Power Supply 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway 11th Bureau Group Electrical Engineering 1 Unlock Company Profile
Seoyoung Engineering 1 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President Enterprises 1 Unlock Company Profile
Foshan Jinjingchuang Environmental Protection Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Tangkou Coal Mining 1 Unlock Company Profile
Xuzhou Jiangmei Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Zhengzhou Souqu Information Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Sandvik, Epiroc, Atlas Copco and POSCO E&C are some of the leading patent filers in emergency rescue systems.

POSCO E&C created the Smart Safety Solution, a safety management system that incorporates Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, IoT, and virtual reality. The company is ensuring early detection and rapid response to on-site safety accidents through smart safety management, which it has implemented at various industrial sites, including steel plants, and is also reducing accidents by 30% by preventing unsafe behaviors and conditions. The company’s smart safety technologies include gas sensor, work location control, thermal CCTV, smart CCTV, smart ball, safety bus and safety vest. POSCO's Smart Safety Ball is the world's first technology, which detects the presence of harmful gas by throwing the ball into the enclosed workspace before workers enter. Meanwhile, the Safety Bus is a vehicle created specifically for Posco subcontractors. A large LED screen attached to the outside of the bus displays safety information for workers entering steel mills. The most versatile method of delivering precautions and details on the current safety status is through the LED screens.  The bus also has two televisions (TVs) inside to convey information without regard for time or space, promoting effective and efficient learning.

Meanwhile, Atlas Copco’s Automatic Monitoring and Extinguishing System employs smoke and heat detectors through a voting system to first shut down the engine or prime mover and when necessary, extinguish the source of the potential hazard with CO2.

In terms of application diversity, Epiroc leads the pack, while Guangzhou Metro Group and China Railway Construction stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sandvik held the top position, followed by Epiroc and Sanwa.

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

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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.