June/July 2010

Canadians Abroad

The problem solver: A Canadian provided technology support around the globe

By H. Ednie

Richard Moore

Richard Moore examines flood basalts while exploring for nickel deposits on Disko Island, Greenland

As deposits go deeper and deeper, new technologies will be the key to their successful extraction. With its focus on technological advancements, the Canadian mining industry has a real opportunity on the global front. “The only other country comparable is Australia,” says Richard Moore, vice-president exploration for Vismand Exploration. “With a renewed thrust for innovation in exploration here in Canada, we’re looking forward to exciting times.”

Beginning in 1989, Moore spent two years living in Bonao, a village in the middle of the Dominican Republic, while working for Falconbridge at its Falcondo operation. During this assignment, he was tasked with introducing technology to the small exploration group which, at the time, was focused on base metal deposits.

Persuading the group to embrace technology — especially computers — required a cultural change. “My aim was to get the geologists to think more for themselves,” Moore recalls. “There was a tendency to allow the ‘boss’ to make all the decisions. But we encouraged the geologists to use their knowledge and experience to make decisions on their own and to think forward.” With Moore, the group worked on longer term project planning, focusing on efficiencies and robust systems, and overcoming the tendency to simply plan for today.

Moore says it was a fantastic experience for him, although he regrets not having learned the language. “Unfortunately, the group all spoke English quite well, so I never developed a good understanding of Spanish,” he says. “I recommend to anyone going overseas, to put effort into learning the language. You’ll get so much more out of being there. Just embrace the language and culture and learn.”

While living in the Dominican Republic, Moore travelled to Chile a number of times to consult on the Collahuasi project for Falconbridge, which at the time, was under exploration. Moore’s role was to give feedback to Falconbridge and make recommendations on what should be done differently, as the company was not the operator of the joint venture.

“The partners were sinking a shaft in a small copper vein operation,” he recalls. “We thought it was inappropriate and succeeded in changing the exploration program to a broader one. This led to the discovery of the Ujina deposit — a shallow, porphyry deposit of high-grade, super gene enrichment.”

In 1995, Moore began a new role with Falconbridge, which he dubbed “exploration manager of all the parts of the world no one else wanted to have.” He covered Asia, Russia and the Pacific, and began racking up frequent flyer miles as he jetted to various international destinations.

Moore’s team developed exploration projects in Russia and, with nickel exploration as a focus, he travelled throughout India, the Philippines and Australia. “We didn’t have huge budgets, but we found tremendous exploration opportunities and it was very easy to get joint-venture partners,” he says. In Russia, there was an abundance of tremendous skills but the concept of “economic deposits” was missing. “They were used to the idea of providing a commodity as needed, no matter what the costs,” he adds.

The culture in Russia at the time placed value on very hard work and workers had a strong sense of preservation. There was a tendency to hold back necessary information as a safeguard. But their abilities were obvious. “I remember one time in the bush thinking, ‘if ever there’s a group of people I’d want to be abandoned with in the bush, this group is the one,’” Moore says. The 16-person team he is recalling included 15 with PhDs. “The one guy with a M.Sc. was relegated to being the cook,” Moore laughs. “There’s incredible training and skills available.”

In 1999, Moore became Falconbridge’s director of technology support, ensuring that they were using the latest technologies and supporting research as required across the company. Most of it was Canadian, although when necessary, they looked elsewhere, such as to Rhodes University in South Africa. “You go where the best people are to solve problems,” he adds.

Currently with Vismand Exploration, Moore works on projects in Greenland, Chile, Spain and Canada. Having gone to Greenland with Falconbridge years ago to shut down a project, he returned with Vismand and, using deep search technologies, answered the original problem posed by that project. “However, issues persist with high costs of drilling, so the project is now parked once again,” he adds. “The potential remains — it’s a technology problem — one to solve in the future."

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