Mining is a composite industry. Extracting raw material of different shapes, sizes, and chemical compositions from the earth’s crust and transforming it into a standardized and high-quality final product is a challenging process and has pushed the industry to opt for solutions that improve its efficiency and productivity. Typically mines are located in remote areas and adopting automation helps in resource utilization in a better manner. Automation plays an indispensable role in the mining industry to achieve such strategic goals. However, for the majority of those in the mining industry, automation is a much more comprehensive concept than regulative systems, supervision, and instrumentation. Automa tion can cover the geological/ geographical information systems sof tware to autonomous machines and from mine execution software to optimization or expert systems.
The mining sector in Colombia is very diverse, including a variety of extraction methods (open pit, alluvium, underground, melting) and scales of operation (traditional, small, medium, and large mining), as well as a myriad of exploited minerals. Around 30 different minerals are extracted in the country, the most important being coal, gold, nickel, iron ore, emeralds, silver, platinum, limestone cement, and salt. Despite recent efforts by ANM and the national government, illegal mining, especially of gold, continues to be a problem. Furthermore, Colombians are still sceptical about the positives that the mining industry can have for their lives and for the economy as a whole, with mayors, judges, and the general public, often rejecting the development of new projects.
In 2018, the performance of the coal sector in China improved, which was attributed to a number of factors, such as favourable domestic economic conditions, the ongoing supply-side reform and coal industry consolidation. In addition, there was high market demand from the steel sector, increased power consumption and a recovery in thermal power generation. These market conditions stimulated growth in coal prices, which although hiked to USD 120 per tonne on international markets in July 2018, remained at healthy levels. The stronger performance of China’s coal sector in 2018 was also a result of improved balance between supply and demand, supported by implementation of the government’s regulatory measures on coal pricing and import volumes throughout 2018. The production efficiency and profitability in the sector increased. The revenue of the major coal mining enterprises rose by 5.5% y/y to RMB 2.3tn, according to China National Coal Association, while their profit increased by 5.2% y/y to RMB 288.8bn. The number of coal mining enterprises rose to 4,505, up from 4,435 in 2017, while the number of coal mines was cut to 3,373, down from 3,907 in 2017. The average annual production capacity expanded to about 920,000 tonnes.
The coal mining industry in China has been undergoing an intense consolidation process, which has resulted in a decreasing number of small inefficient businesses and a growing number of large coal enterprises. Due to their extensive scale of operations and big market shares, SOEs are the sector’s main revenue generators. In 2018, the country’s top ten coal producers generated over 34.6% of the total revenue of coal mining, up from the 27.1% share in 2017. The government’s industry reforms envisage further consolidation of the mining sector, which is likely to intensify the M&A activity. In order to boost their profits along the value chain, coal producers are expected to further expand their presence into segments such as syngas, olefins and liquid fuels, as well as coal-to-oil conversion. They will also work on diversifying their business scope with renewable energy development, power generation and transportation.
Oil and gas exploration and production are complex processes. Pertaining to low interest due to the decline in oil prices, during 2014-2016, the oil and gas companies had not invested much into it. However, with the stability in oil prices and ample amount of proven reserves, the companies have started to invest in the market. Indonesia had the highest reserve, followed by Vietnam, as of December 2018. With rise in activities in the upstream sector, the EPC market is likely to grow in the region. The downstream EPC market occupies a major share, owing to the huge cost incurred in the installation of refineries unit. It is followed by the EPC contract of pipelines used in the transportation of crude after exploration, and for the transportation of gaseous products from the refineries. The overall refining capacity in the South Asian countries showed an increase of ~7.37%, during 2011-2018.
The level of competition in Peru’s mining sector varies with segment. It ranges from a monopolistic market structure in the iron and tin segments; through low competition in molybdenum and a medium level of competition in copper, silver and zinc; to a high degree of competition in gold and lead. Most players are active in multiple segments, since Peru has an abundance of polymetallic deposits (especially zinc, lead and silver combinations). A key characteristic of the gold segment is the existence of a large group of small companies and individual miners engaged in illegal mining.
In 2017, China’s coal mining sector registered an improved y/y performance, which was attributed to a number of factors such as the favourable domestic economic conditions and the ongoing supply-side reform and coal industry consolidation, accompanied by high coal prices. The government continued its efforts to “clean up” the coal sector and optimise its operating efficiency through a number of measures. The main stress was put on the restructuring of SOEs, elimination of small, outdated and inefficient production facilities, as well as decreasing the excess coal production capacity. The stronger performance of China’s coal sector in 2017 was also a result of the improved balance between coal supply and demand on the domestic market, the increased power consumption and the y/y recovery of thermal power generation. The above factors contributed to improved production efficiency and higher profitability of the coal mining businesses. The revenue of coal mining enterprises rose from RMB 2,233bn in 2016 to RMB 2,544bn in 2017, while the net profit hiked from RMB 116bn to RMB 296bn. The number of coal mining enterprises rose to 5,111, up from 5,049 units in 2016.
One important characteristic of the Indian mining industry is that it contains a large number of small operational mines which are mostly in the private sector. These are operated largely by manual labour and without mechanisation, as either proprietary or partnership ventures. According to the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), the private sector plays a dominant role in mineral production, accounting for 67% of its total output value as of FY2017. However, in some segments, the state continues to be a major player. The minerals which were wholly mined by the public sector in FY2017 were copper ore and concentrate, diamond, fluorite (graded), selenite, and sulphur. The public sector accounts for 99% of both gold and phosphorite mining, and for 76% of graphite and 54% of magnesite mining. Almost the entire production of sand, lignite and gypsum comes from the public sector as well.
We believe South East Asia's mining sector will struggle to fulfil its potential over the next few years, despite rich deposits of untapped minerals on offer. China's economic slowdown will remove a crucial outlet for raw material exports in the region and, more importantly, will impact the profitability of mining ventures, with high start-up costs likely to deter new investment. While states such as Myanmar have made strides to relax the regulatory environment to encourage increased private sector investment, substantial obstacles remain across many parts of the region, including high levels of corruption and limited infrastructure. As such, many parts of the region continue to be perceived as frontier markets as far as mining activity is concerned.
Although Turkey has initiated a privatisation and liberalisation process of its mining industry, the state still has controlling stakes in the key companies operating in the sector. At the same time, the government sees private sector investments from local and foreign companies as a crucial factor for the development of domestic mineral reserves. In order to lure more investors, the government has pursued a policy of making the business environment in the mining industry more attractive. Still, the political and economic challenges over 2016-2018 are undermining foreign investor confidence in the country in general and the mining sector in particular.