February 2011

Sharing knowledge in the digital realm

An online resource for mine design

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

Screenshot of MineDesignWiki web page. The website’s aim is to become the complete reference for both the development and detail of current mine design practice | Photo courtesy of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI)

What if there was a way to bring together not just all the existing knowledge and best practices in mine design from around the world today, but also the very minds behind them, to build on them, collaborate, discuss and identify areas needing new research and tools? What impact would this have on the sector’s present and future? How would this accelerate innovation and progress?

With the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation’s (CEMI) recent introduction of the online resource MineDesignWiki, the opportunity to answer these questions in the near future has become very real. All that is needed now is for practitioners, professionals and students in mining to join and continue to build the virtual community.

Think of MineDesignWiki as an electronic handbook that is constantly being updated and revised. “The whole idea of creating a handbook of knowledge has been tried a number of times,” says Andrew Dasys, president of Objectivity, a decision support consultancy for the mining industry. Dasys is part of the team behind the wiki site’s creation. “One of the difficulties is that once a handbook is printed, there’s no way to go in and change the information as technology progresses,” he says. “As in the case of almost every other industry, the mining industry is moving much quicker than it used to 20 or 30 years ago, so to us, the wiki was a means of getting individuals from around the world who are doing really exciting things in mine design to come together to bring their knowledge to a central location. More importantly, what we are doing is not only documenting what they’re doing, but also developing new knowledge, and doing it in the same format as the highly successful collaborative Wikipedia.”

A vital archive

MineDesignWiki has the capacity to erase the walls and boundaries that keep much of mine design knowledge, best practices and new ideas scattered across the globe or in niche sites on the Internet or, all too often, simply sitting in libraries in universities or corporations. “There is very little difficulty finding financial information on mining on the Internet, information that is produced by the mining investment community or on mining disasters, for example, but it can be very difficult to find information about the technical aspects of mining,” says Dasys. “You could find an abstract, but if you don’t have a subscription to the publication, you can’t get to the complete paper. And the paper doesn’t get updated over time.”

MineDesignWiki has the potential to be as vibrant and leading edge as the individuals who work, teach, research and study in the mine design sector, essentially creating a virtual meeting place for high-quality collaboration. “We wanted to ensure the reliability of the facts and information in the wiki, which is important to the community involved, so the site is set up in such a way that anyone can go in and view it, but only those who are registered on the site can go in and make collaborative contributions,” says Glenn Lyle, R&D program director at CEMI and project lead. “There will also be some articles that are not open to collaboration, but can be commented on.”

“We think one of MineDesignWiki’s key distinctions is that if you’re making a contribution to the handbook, your name will be attached to it,” Lyle adds. “The participants in the community are not paid, so by attaching the person’s name to the contribution, over time they either get recognized as having expertise in the field or as providing a substantial contribution to this community effort. CEMI values this kind of project because it meets its mandate to establish excellence in strategic research areas deemed critically important to the mining industry.”

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