The future of mining

The general news is full about technology forecasts, from holographic displays to coffee making mobile phones we receive a lot of speculation about technology. But most of it is related to the core-technological innovations.

I often wonder about the innovations in other areas such as say kitchen. How will a typical kitchen look like after 20 years? Will people still cook on methane gas ? Will there be more disruptive technologies which will save energy, preserve nutrients and make delicious food for us ? Or will the whole concept of cooking will get out of the house and we will only bring in air-tight packets and heat it and eat ?

There is a theory of innovation. The real innovations are disruptive. They suddenly change the way we do some things. It also means that make few other things obsolete. Innovations are accepted slowly, they catch up after some time and grow exponentially only find themselves stagnating and eventually face extinction. That is called the S curve of innovation.

If we study innovation closely, it appears that they move in some pattern. All innovation tend to be more and more perfect, free and instantaneous. An innovative product must score heavily on either of these parameters compared to the one it wishes to replace. I had blogged about this before.

The sad part about India is that no matters whats the field we are talking about that innovation is not likely to come in our country first, it will always come 10 years later.

With lot of hues and cries over mining in my home state Goa, I wonder what will be the future of mining?

I think all depends on how fast we come up with alternative energy sources. If we are to believe in innovation trends, the world is likely to invent an energy source that will be much cheaper, almost infinite and mostly pollution free. I strongly believe this will be the case. If we don’t then I feel we will have a much larger crisis to face and all other problems will seem small.

What happens with an infinite and cheap energy source? This energy will tend to solve most of the environmental problems in a different way than now. We wont need water from rivers but it will be very simple to pump out as much water as we want from oceans. Oceans contain huge reserves of metals including diamonds and gold. There is around 330 million cubic miles of water in our oceans and each square mile contains around 300 million tons of different elements. There are also mineral deposits under water.

And if that doesn’t work or if it starts meddling with the aquatic life, certainly we can look at distant planets. Once we look beyond earth, every element on periodic table is available in infinite quantity. We have to only send a spaceship to go dig and get it back, preferably in its purest form.

While that sounds like science fiction, one thing that will certainly happen is we will learn to recycle better. In fact other countries like England and Japan have already started looking at recycling scrap for generating ferrous material.

Currently the most widely used metals are steel and it’s variant, copper etc. But in long-term many other forgotten members of periodic table might emerge as winners, especially if they have anything to do with the new energy sources. Lithium, Cadmium are used in the cells that keep our cellphones charged and they are important.

Many of our mining warlords are making quick bucks by indiscriminately mining and exporting the ore. They employ new technology only if it means making more money and they will do nothing that can help the people involved a bit safer or the environment a little better.

Unfortunately these people are smart. Their business doesn’t have a future in long-term, these people don’t have competence to build the futuristic mining either, they will make money now use it to get into politics and rule over people like you and me.

Thats what has happened with the Samuel Reddy (the cm who thankfully died in a helicopter accident) , that is what is haunting Yeddy in Karnataka and that’s what is about to happen in Goa as well.

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