Innovation is a key ingredient to the success of the mineral and metals industry. Mining involves complicated processes, the use of large, expensive machinery and equipment, and exploring extensive areas of land. Applying innovation in these areas can enhance efficiency, lower costs, and maximize extraction.
Learn more about challenges and opportunities for realizing community benefits and supporting a diverse workforce
Although Canada has abundant mineral resources, producing ore bodies are depleting and mining companies are looking to increasingly remote locations and deeper deposits. Further, unlocking Canada’s mineral potential requires research, development and investment in technologies suitable for cold climates. Innovation can help meet these challenges, while reducing the footprint of the industry.
Canada is a leader in mining innovation.Footnote 1and it has a number of advantages, such as a highly skilled workforce with expertise in extractive technologies and geological and biological sciences. Canada has a strong research and development system – including centres of excellence housed in universities – that provides innovative ideas and knowledge relevant to the natural resource sector, an open investment climate, and the second lowest marginal tax rate on new business investment in the G7.Footnote 2
Innovation can include the development and adoption of clean technologies. These can be defined as products, processes or services designed to remediate or prevent environmental impacts, or that are less polluting or more resource-efficient than equivalent “normal products.” Mining companies adopt clean technologies to improve efficiencies and reduce the environmental impact of mining-related activities.Footnote 3 For example, fossil fuels—particularly diesel—are the primary fuel for mining operations. The transition to cleaner diesel equipment and the adoption of electric and battery-powered equipment can improve energy efficiency, be less polluting, and result in lower maintenance costs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another example of innovation that has implications for mining. AI includes “machine learning,” where mining equipment can perform increasingly complex tasks, including difficult and hazardous processing activities. It also involves the management and transmission of large amounts of data, and real-time business and operation decision-making.
Modern mining operations require a range of skills.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) creates new ways for mining companies to optimize costs and improve productivity, while reducing environmental footprints.
AI technology is in action at the Red Lake mine in Ontario. Goldcorp is using IBM’s Watson cognitive analytics to synthesize geological and drilling data, drilling reports, surveys, and historical information with field knowledge from geologists and engineers.
Using Watson to combine this data and information can lead to more successful exploration activities and help discover profitable mining areas.