How can we increase innovation and clean technology in Canada's mines, and export this expertise?
We need to first identify the biggest challenges to innovation in the mining sector and then find the right tools to reduce these barriers --- here are a couple of examples; match funding for new and emerging technologies, government support for pilot sites, improve performance through mechanization and automation, and support R&D to address the difficulties in processing uneconomic or low-grade ore bodies.
There needs to be initiatives in place to encourage collaboration with innovation players. www.ami-aim.ca/ is a great resource that has been created to help with collaboration on innovation in the mining industry. It needs to be promoted and encouraged so people use this resource, as well so that other players outside of industry (such as academics) can help pave innovative solutions. Clean tech is the future supporting it's development is one of the ways we're going to get broad support for mining (although interestingly there is no clean tech if there is no mining...).
To better support mineral exploration and mining projects, consideration needs to be given towards the improvement of telecommunications. We take it for granted in the more populated urban parts of Canada but if your WiFi or telcom service goes down, as we've all experienced, think about all the business/financial transactions and information sources that are no longer possible. Further innovation is required to improve connectivity that will, in turn, facilitate more effective exploration/mining activities as well as support on-line education/training in the north.
Work with existing companies, like Canadian Ballard Power, to develop hydrogen (H2) power systems for mine equipment. Nikola in the US has already demonstrated the cost efficiency of H2 class 8 trucks and has just received an order for 800 of their trucks from one company.
Ballard works with train, bus and truck manufacturers around the world providing H2 systems and they have proven records.
If the mine(s) can be connected to the grid it would be best. Electrify as much as possible and H2 or H2 hybrid systems for highly mobile equipment.
The H2 generation systems could be designed to produce a days worth during off peak hours, there by levelling the daily load on the grid and improving the efficiency of grid generation and lowering cost for all users.
Some mobile equipment could use batteries, but H2 systems are lighter, very important for haul trucks. Overhead power lines and pantographs could be used to boost the trucks on grades. If the trucks were hybrid they could regenerate electricity when descending into pits.
Most of this equipment is already available but not integrated together into mining.
The trucks and vehicles used for transporting goods from mining site which are located at very remote places such as narrow roads, small bridge to cross etc. can be replaced by trolleys kind of system which can be loaded with ore and then through a trolley based on cables, can be transported to long distances or at least to place which is easily accessible by trucks and finally take them to extraction plant or processing facility. It can be monitored by humans having monitoring stations who earlier had to drive trucks all the way to the site. At the site, there will be a staff for filling in these trolleys and the same would be applicable to the extraction plant as well. Finally, the frequency of these trolleys can be managed from inside a cabin. It is a good solution for Canada as most of the time the mining site is not accessible due to the snow storm or bad weather and transportation of ores at such time can be especially dangerous for human life. Thus this can make it sure that there is little human physical effort and would encourage people or even physically-gifted people or women to take such jobs, who are usually not considered for such heavy-duty tasks.
Innovation in the mining sector could strongly leverage from new free and public high-resolution data (3D Relief) in the North for enhanced remote exploration (Geoscience) and better environmental assessment. At Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (NRCan), we now provide more than 3 million km² of free public high-resolution elevation dataset north of the 60th parallel. This is the more precise free elevation dataset available for the North in Canada. More info given in this news:
This type of data has the potential to improve free and public geoscience in Canada and to support innovation in the mining industry. For instance, research should be conducted in enhanced remote predictive mapping using AI and high-resolution elevation data. This new detailed data allow to remotely identify more structure in the relief and to possibly increase the effectiveness in the research of new mine sites. Moreover, more precise elevation data can support more accurate environmental assessment (impacts) prior to or during the development of a mine project.
We believe that the use of high-resolution dataset such as the one mentioned in the above link should be stated at some point in the new Canadian minerals and metals plan.
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Two areas that do seem to receive much discussion but are constant concerns brought forward in community meetings are 1) short and long term health, safety and environmental risks of tailings management facilities and 2) metal contamination risks to ground and surface water. These are the 2 items that outlast the mines and mining companies but not the communities that must deal with them. More research is required on how to reduce the size and impacts of tailings and the risks of metal contamination in ground and surface water. Defining innovative pathways to addressing these two issues would be a huge boost to companies attempting to obtain their social license.
Terminons l'autoroute 20 jusqu'au port de Matane pour les expéditions par bateaux; exportons des éoliennes vers les sites miniers avec des batteries immenses pour redfuiire la dépendance au diesel. Utilisons l'aéroport de Matane avec des dirigeables de transport pour acheminer les équipements là où il n'y a pas de routes vers les nouvelles mines de métaux rares ou conventionnelles.