Technology, Innovation and the Future of Mining
Technological innovation is all around us changing the we live and work. The mining industry is no exception.
In 2019 the Canadian Mining Expo being held in Timmins June 5-6 will look at the changes that technology is bringing to mining exploration and mining operations.
Ground-breaking technology is making mining operations better.
Mines are getting more environmentally friendly, productive and safer underground working conditions for miners are at the forefront.
One of the main drivers of introducing new technology is the need for deeper mines.
The biggest challenge is that productivity is decreasing because, near surface deposits have been depleted. Companies are looking to technology to reduce the cost of mining at greater depths.
Mines will be deeper, that means greater cooling and ventilation will be required. To reduce the cost of cooling a mine and pumping in clean air mines are replacing diesel powered equipment with all electric battery powered equipment.
“There are a lot of competitive advantages of bringing innovation into your company, because you will become more productive, more energy efficient and you are going to reduce your mining costs,” explains Samantha Espley, General Manager, Vale Mining and Mineral Processing Technical Excellence Centre.
“ In some ways it is easy to make decisions in terms of where we have to go,” says Tony Makuch President and CEO of Kirkland Lake Gold.
“We focus on how we mine faster, safer, more productively and responsibly all the time.”
His company has introduced Artizan battery electric vehicles as their primary mode for hauling ore to the surface.
Goldcorp’s Borden Lake Mine, 160 km west of Timmins is set to become Canada’s first all electric mine in order to reduce their operating costs.
Going electric is a major part of Goldcorp’s drive to increase production by 20% by 2021. Goldcorp anticipates a significant reduction in greenhouse gases, about 70 percent and an annual savings of $9 million per year on diesel, propane and electricity.
When fully operational Borden Mine will have about 4 km of underground roads for accessing rock faces and hauling ore to the surface.
Technological improvements are also having benefits to the environment by reducing the amount of diesel fuel for example and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released by a mine.
The costs involved in developing new technology has also led to greater co-operation between mining companies.
Glencore’s Onaping Depth project at their Craig Mine, north of Sudbury is another example of an Ontario mine embracing an all electric future. The mine will be about 2 km deep and with depth comes increased need to provide ventilation to reduce the hot temperatures. Switching to battery electric operations reduces the amount of diesel contamination and the reduce ventilation costs.
Another Sudbury mine, Vale’s Totten Mine was built with the capacity for rapid data collection and information sharing from the mining area to the surface. The mine uses advanced technology such as its Miner Operated Survey System (MOSS), Ventilation on Demand System (VODS) and Distributed Control System (DCS). These are wireless communications systems that provide information on what is happening underground to make decision on the optimal areas for drilling ore and avoiding waste rock. The system also tracks the location of every worker. In addition, based on data of where the workers are decisions are made on which areas to ventilate and which areas to shut off lighting and ventilation thus saving cost for Vale. This can save up to 50 percent of costs.
Mining companies are no longer doing their own thing, they are working together under a new model. Mines want innovative technology, it’s good for the planet, the health and safety of the workers and the communities. It is our goal here at Mining Life to represent the interest and understanding of the mining industry in our backyard and beyond and we look forward to the challenge.