The mining and metallurgical sector currently faces a period of great challenges, mainly regarding the development and adoption of new technologies to reduce the environmental and social impacts caused by its activity.

Mining and metallurgy activities are alto impacto ambiental. In the case of mining, the size of some operations, the amount of cargo occupied and the waste generated represent risks for various regions and populations, eventually affected by accidents and inefficient disposal and monitoring mechanisms. The metallurgy sector is one of the most intensive in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, being a direct target of climate preservation actions around the world. Both activities are also large consumers of water.

This set of challenges offers opportunities for companies in that sector, which must be able to comply with the imposed sustainability requirements and develop increasingly efficient operations. This sector, which is known for its low adoption of technology, is forced to invest in solutions to improve its performance.


Renewable energy sources, such as wind, biomass and solar energy, have been more exploited, causing the relative cost of energy generation from these sources to have been reduced in recent years. Although the cost of adopting more sustainable processes is high, they are beginning to be increasingly used by companies to reduce the impact on the environment. In general, concern about Energy management used is important in this sector, not only for social and environmental purposes, but also to improve productivity and profitability.

Systems and processes

In the current scenario of diffusion of big data technologies, internet of things, additive manufacturing and new materials, efforts are being used in innovation and development of more efficient production systems and processes. These efforts have as reference the concept of industrie 4.0 y smart manufacturing. Concepts that are mainly based on the digitalization and interconnectivity of systems and links in the development and production chains. This concept is widely applied in advanced manufacturing.

Similarly, this development implies greater depth and transversality of the application of information and communication technologies, expanding interconnectivity for the various stages of production and supply. The objective is the creation of mechanisms that allow total and integrated control of the various processes, parameters and inputs throughout the production chains.

Other areas of advanced manufacturing research also include sensors and monitoring, new low-cost data measurement methods, real-time process analysis, and integration with control technologies. We can also list control and automation systems, with rapid integration between the various production and business mechanisms, and simulation models, digital systems for simulation and 3D visualization, capable of allowing product design and definition of production methods, in addition of digital platforms, standards and communication protocols to support this flow and integration of data, shared between digital and real systems.

Waste and risks

The agenda of the mining sector should mainly contemplate solutions to minimize the volume of material displaced from the mine and unused effluents, water consumption, the risks derived from the exploitation processes and the deposition of waste, and the impacts of the mine. Another element is to increase the levels of benefits and social satisfaction derived from mining operations, with mine closure processes and rehabilitation of degraded areas.

In this sense, the sector is experiencing a cycle of investments in research, development and dissemination of technologies and processes, with a focus:

  • In increasing the recovery of minerals of interest and in the use and agglomeration of fines and ultrafines;
  • In the recovery and reuse of waste and dispersed elements, including processes for alternative use;
  • En tecnologías de bajo riesgo ambiental para el depósito de residuos;
  • In the recovery and reuse of water used in processes, or even in the reduction or elimination of the need to use that water;
  • In the monitoring and control of dams and environmental risks.

Reduction of gas emissions

The mineral transformation of metals, in general, starts from an oxide that will go through an oxyreduction process (a reaction that releases a large amount of CO2), to obtain the primary metal. This makes the metallurgical sector one of the largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG).

The greatest efforts to promote sustainability in metallurgy are related precisely to the reduction of consumption and the recovery of energy and gases from production processes. In metallurgy, there are opportunities for process gas or heat recovery at all stages of production. Furthermore, the improvement of production technologies has generated opportunities also related to furnace feeding and the control and automation of input and product flows, with the aim also of providing greater continuity and integration of processes and avoiding energy losses. between the productive stages.

Some examples of technologies and processes that promote energy efficiency are:

  • tecnología de heat recovery (heat recovery/use) in the various stages of production
  • systems for real-time control of process variables, such as temperature
  • use of process gases
  • new technologies that promote a significant reduction in energy consumption in electric furnaces and electrolytic processes, including the respective automation and control systems.

Effective management

Among all these techniques and technologies aimed at energy, environmental and social improvement, there is one of them that often does not receive due attention, and can end up compromising million-dollar investments. Indicators, risks, procedures, resources, processes and legislation must be managed in an integrated manner. And this would be a practically impossible task without the use of technology: a software solution to improve governance and organizational performance, which is aligned to the mining and metallurgy sector.

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