Au­to­ma­tion drives min­ing in Swe­den

The Punch - - INDUSTRY -

IN Swe­den, au­to­ma­tion is de­ployed in the min­ing sec­tor, and this gives no­body any fear that tech­nol­ogy would take over their jobs.

Ac­cord­ing to a report done by In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion News team on one of the un­der­ground mines in Garpen­berg, man­agers and union lead­ers at the Boli­den mine, some 200 km north­west of Stock­holm, agree that tech­nol­ogy had pre­vented the mine from clos­ing down and were con­fi­dent it would con­tinue to save jobs

The report in­di­cated, “The mine clearly sup­ports the ar­gu­ment that, prop­erly man­aged, tech­nol­ogy can help cre­ate new, de­cent jobs. Au­to­ma­tion has helped pro­mote the in­te­gra­tion of women, re­duce risk and raise pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“here, the ‘min­ers of the fu­ture’ work about one kilo­me­tre un­der­ground, but in air-con­di­tioned of­fices, in­su­lated from the hot and hu­mid gal­leries where the ac­tual drilling for zinc and sil­ver takes place.

“They tele-op­er­ate the heavy machin­ery from the com­fort of their arm­chairs, with the help of joy­sticks and mon­i­tor screens.”

“Adopt­ing the new tech­nol­ogy is a way for us to keep our jobs, and so to sur­vive,” says Ulf Gustafs­son,” an IG Me­tall trade union rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the mine.

The report added that Dalarna County, where Garpen­berg is sit­u­ated, had been at the heart of Swe­den’s min­ing in­dus­try for cen­turies, but plum­met­ing min­eral prices and in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in the 1990s led to the clo­sure of most of the mines in the re­gion.

It stated fur­ther, “The Boli­den mine was among those slated to close, but a new ore de­posit was dis­cov­ered. In 2011, Boli­den de­cided to not only main­tain but ex­pand op­er­a­tions by fo­cus­ing on au­to­ma­tion.

Quot­ing the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the mine, Jenny Got­thards­son, she said, “Com­pe­ti­tion in the min­ing sec­tor is fierce. In a coun­try like Swe­den, with its higher wage bill, we can only re­main com­pet­i­tive if we op­ti­mize pro­duc­tiv­ity. Be­cause we are com­pet­i­tive, we can pre­serve and even cre­ate jobs.”

She also un­der­scored the im­por­tance of so­cial di­a­logue and cited the fact that the em­ploy­ees them­selves test the new tech­nolo­gies un­til they were op­er­a­tional.

Of the 440 peo­ple work­ing at the Garpen­berg site, 18 per cent were said to be women. “We hope to in­crease that num­ber thanks to the mine’s au­to­ma­tion, so as to bet­ter re­flect the com­po­si­tion of Swedish so­ci­ety,” said Got­thards­son.

In the tra­di­tion­ally male world of min­ing, Got­thards­son said she felt at ease in her job.

“It doesn’t mat­ter whether I’m a man or wo­man, I con­cen­trate on my mis­sion, which is to de­velop and man­age the mine, in­clud­ing safety and im­ple­men­ta­tion of au­to­ma­tion.”

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