SINGAPORE — Japan's mining companies have been so badly hurt by the strengthening of the yen that they are thinking of sending robot miners underground to cut costs.
Masamichi Fujimori, president of giant Sumitomo Metal Mining, told a mining conference here that engineers are working on ways to operate mines without men below ground.
"An unattended operation requires the construction of a computer control system and the introduction of technology related to mechatronics and robots," he said.
In Japan, a few robotized factories already work through the night with just one computer engineer to watch over them.
Fujimori said robot mining is just one way that Japan's metal companies are trying to save money as their profits have fallen due to the appreciation of the yen. The yen's rise is the result of a decision last fall by Japan, the United States, Britain, France and West Germany to bring down the value of the dollar relative to other currencies.