Decades ago, mining jobs in the United States were some of the more stable career options for workers. Though it’s certainly one of the more physically taxing jobs, miners were relatively financially stable and able to raise entire families on a middle class salary. Times have changed, however, and it looks like they are going to be drastically changing in the very near future.


Despite the decline of coal, the U.S. mining industry is doing well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in gas and oil extraction increased by 2,300 in September 2017, and 7,000 new mining jobs were added in August. At one point in 2016, there were even as many as 659,000 mining workers in the United States.


Despite the relatively unchanged market over the last two months, mining as a career looks like it might be on the way out. The mining industry has been in jeopardy for the last few years as environmental advocacy groups have tried to place dozens of restrictions on the way the work is done. But something a little more technologically advanced could soon hinder the mining human job market much worse than green energy.


Robotic underwater miners are no longer science fiction; they are very real.


New Scientist reports that robot miners are now able to access areas where humans simply cannot, making them much more productive and efficient miners in a variety of dangerous situations.


“From an environmental perspective, it makes sense to reopen an existing mine rather than excavate a new pit,” said Ian Stewart, an independent environmental consultant.


Stewart states that the mining robot is currently in preparation for a June 2018 trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The second trial is planned for these two specific locations because of the granite bedrock in Bosnia and the Smreka iron open pit in Herzegovina.


By the year 2020, the international metal fabrication equipment market is expected to grow by nearly 7% and some of that growth could be going to fund various robotic mining experiments. Though nothing seems like it’s going to change in the immediate future, mining robots could certainly get rid of conventional mining jobs once they become more popular, available, and efficient. Mining operations could be much more sustainable, however, once this technology further advances and works out the kinks. Robots will be able to work completely out of sight, with minimal environmental disturbance, and, most importantly, without the risk of harming a human miner.


Though professional miners and those invested in the human-backed mining industry might not prefer robots to perform their daily tasks and jeopardize their livelihood, they aren’t completely in the dark. For over a century, the popular trade publication Mining Magazine, the current issue is titled, “The Robots Are Coming.”


We’ll have to wait and see exactly what happens but technology is looking more and more like it’s going to lead to much more mining projects and a lot fewer mining employees.