The Canadian mineral exploration, mining and related technology, service and supplier industries have worked in conjunction with academia, research organizations and governments to create the Canadian Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) — a new research and innovation network. CMIC is comprised of a consortium of industry, academic and government leaders whose mandate is to strengthen the competitiveness of a responsible Canadian mining industry by renewing a commitment to mining research excellence across the country.
Canada enjoys a pre-eminent role as the global leader in mineral exploration, mining and knowledge-based services and technologies. Still, our mining and mineral processing sector faces key challenges related to R&D, innovation and commercialization. In particular, there is a need for technological solutions to advance sustainable mining, meet environmental standards and regulations, reduce costs, increase value added, and protect the health and safety of workers. There is also a lack of efficient and cost-effective access to R&D (both nationally and globally), as well as a shortage of engineers and scientists that is not being met by enrolment in most university mining departments. Furthermore, Canada is not capitalizing fully from the commercial benefits of R&D for domestic and international markets.
Canada has a national mining research presence through industry, university, research organizations and government centres, but overall, these efforts are fragmented. There have been many mining-related research initiatives over the years, but there is currently no overall strategy for linking industry needs with public-private R&D capability.
At present, mining research in Canada too often occurs in silos, with researchers and research institutions working without an awareness of other efforts and competing for research funding when there could have been an opportunity for collaboration. While there have been a number of successful regional and national initiatives, this lack of cooperation has resulted in a duplication of some research and gaps in other areas.
The absence of a comprehensive understanding of the research community’s efforts has also led to a lack of awareness by companies as to who in Canada could best address their problems, resulting in a shift offshore of some research. Furthermore, Canadian companies have not been able to take full advantage of technical breakthroughs stemming from research centres in this country.
To address these challenges, federal, provincial and territorial mines ministers endorsed the creation of CMIC at their annual conference in September 2007. They also called for a pan-Canadian mining research and innovation strategy to be developed and presented at their September 2008 conference.
CMIC is a not-for-profit entity administered by a board of directors and a secretariat, which will in turn be supported by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and CIM. The Council’s inaugural annual general meeting will be held in May 2008, in conjunction with the CIM Conference and Exhibition in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Council’s overarching objectives are:
- To improve mining research, innovation and commercialization efforts in order to strengthen Canada’s pre-eminent role as a global leader in mineral exploration, mining and knowledge-based services and technologies.
- To increase the supply of highly qualified graduates from mining and earth science faculties to meet the significant current and future demands of industry, governments and academia.
With the leadership of a strong transitional board of directors, the Council will develop the pan-Canadian research and innovation strategy in 2008 through a series of regional workshops. The strategy will address Canada’s key challenges related to mining R&D, innovation, commercialization and availability of highly qualified people.
The success of Canadian mining depends on our ability to innovate. A long-term vision and strategy is needed to address mining research and innovation issues if we are to maintain our global leadership role. A new plan of action is required to generate the necessary results, supported by the opportunity for improved coordination and collaboration between research users, funders and performers that CMIC will be able to provide. CMIC will strengthen the competitiveness of a responsible Canadian mining industry by restoring mining research excellence across Canada.
For those who want to actively shape the future of mining research and innovation in Canada, this is a great opportunity to get involved. Additional information on the Council can be obtained from Michel Plouffe at the secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Assistant Deputy Minister, Minerals and Metals Sector, Natural Resources Canada
Webster Chair professor, Department of Mining, Metals and Materials Engineering, McGill University
President and CEO, The Mining Association of Canada
Managing Director, Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export
Executive Director, Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum