Automation drives mining in Sweden
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.”