The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for greater productivity as well as safety and growing importance of technologies such as automation, 3D mapping and geomodelling, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). 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: tunneling and anchoring machine. 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

Tunneling and anchoring machine is a key innovation area in mining

Tunneling and anchoring machines are essential equipment used in the mining industry for various underground construction and support tasks. These machines play a crucial role in creating tunnels, shafts, and other underground structures, while ensuring the safety and stability of the excavated areas and preserving workers’ safety.

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 180 companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of tunneling and anchoring machine.

Key players in tunneling and anchoring machine – 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 tunneling and anchoring machine

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Komatsu 372 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 127 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 119 Unlock Company Profile
Sanyhe International 113 Unlock Company Profile
Sandvik 98 Unlock Company Profile
China Energy Investment 69 Unlock Company Profile
Anglo American 67 Unlock Company Profile
Shanxi Tiandi Coal Mining Machinery 64 Unlock Company Profile
Zhengzhou Siwei Electromechanical Equipment Manufacturing 52 Unlock Company Profile
RAG-Stiftung 48 Unlock Company Profile
Yankuang Group 47 Unlock Company Profile
Zhengzhou Coal Mining Machinery Group 46 Unlock Company Profile
Jinneng Holding Group 37 Unlock Company Profile
Family Trust Investor FTI 30 Unlock Company Profile
China Shipbuilding Industry 27 Unlock Company Profile
Deere 22 Unlock Company Profile
Huainan Mining Group 22 Unlock Company Profile
marco Systemanalyse und Entwicklung 20 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Tiandi Marco Electro Hydraulic Control System 20 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
Sichuan Huayingshan Guangneng (Group) 17 Unlock Company Profile
Zhou Bin 17 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Mining Machinery Group 14 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 14 Unlock Company Profile
Linzhou Heavy Machinery Group 13 Unlock Company Profile
Sany Heavy Equipment Investments 13 Unlock Company Profile
Guizhou Panjiang Refined Coal 12 Unlock Company Profile
Shanxi Donghua Machinery 10 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Tunnel Equipment Manufacturing 10 Unlock Company Profile
Shan Xi Hua Yang Group New Energy 9 Unlock Company Profile
China Communications Construction Group 9 Unlock Company Profile
Tiandi Shanghai Mining Equipment Technology 8 Unlock Company Profile
Wanbei Coal Electricity Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President Enterprises 8 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Energy Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Bucyrus Europe 7 Unlock Company Profile
Anhui Mining Electromechanical Equipment 7 Unlock Company Profile
China National Coal Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
Henan Energy and Chemical Industry Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
XCMG Construction Machinery 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hyosung 6 Unlock Company Profile
Zhengzhou Siwei Mining Machinery 6 Unlock Company Profile
Shanxi Gaohe Energy 6 Unlock Company Profile
Huaibei Mining 6 Unlock Company Profile
Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Pingdingshan Antaihua Mining Safety Equipment Manufacturing 5 Unlock Company Profile
China Coal Technology 5 Unlock Company Profile
Famur Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Industry Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Grenevia 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Komastu and Sandvik are among the leading patent filers in tunneling and anchoring machines. Komatsu, a Japanese machinery manufacturer, and Codelco, agreed to conduct trial on a new excavation method using a new mining tunnel boring machine (TBM) developed by the former, in July 2022. In October 2023, Komatsu added 3D machine guidance and payload capabilities to crawler and wheeled excavators to improve safety, productivity, and efficiency while lowering carbon emissions in construction operations.

Another example of innovation in TBMs tunneling machines is Robbin’s MDM5000, which is the first boring machine to cut rectangular tunnels. Unlike other machines that have been developed for cutting soft material, the MDM5000 is the first to be successful in rectangular hard-rock tunnelling. Furthermore, driving a tunnel with a circular full-face TBM necessitates secondary operations to create a flat roadway, which takes time and money.

Some other key patent filers in this space include Caterpillar, Tian Di Science & Technology, Sanyhe International.

In terms of application diversity, Hyosung leads the pack, while Deere and Anglo American stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sandvik held the top position, followed by Komatsu and Deere.

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.