Dec '07/Jan '08

An interview with Doug Morrison

Holistic and sustainable mining technology

By R. Pillo

One of this year’s CIM Distinguished Lecturers, Doug Morrison, is well-known for his animated and engaging talks. His presentation, titled Hollistic and Sustainable Mining Technology, has been a huge hit at several CIM branches. Morrison’s background is in deep underground hardrock mining, particularly ground control and safety, as well as mine design and productivity. CIM met up with him to discuss the focus of his presentation.

CIM: For those who are not familiar with your lecture, please explain what it entails.

Morrison: The talk is an examination of how well the mining industry is addressing the important questions of the day — return on investment, productivity and effectiveness and whether the industry in developed countries like Canada is going to be socially sustainable in the face of the demographic changes in society. The way the industry operates now was shaped by the pressure of low commodity prices, but now that prices are projected to remain high for some time, are we changing the way we operate to meet these new demands by addressing the fundamental issues or just riding the crest of a wave?

CIM: What are some of the things your audiences can expect to learn about from your lecture?

Morrison: The investment community talks about the creation and destruction of value, based on the return on capital (or not) provided by an operation. It can be difficult for operators to imagine how this happens, but there are simple examples of ‘value destruction’ — cases that will be easily recognized in almost every operation, such as turning ore into waste, hidden indirect costs and losing time. Are we going to continue with these practices in the future and who are the next generation of mine operators?

CIM: What attracted you to becoming a CIM Distinguished Lecturer?

Morrison: I was honoured to be nominated as a Distinguished Lecturer and pleased to take on the role because it is an opportunity to initiate a broader discussion within the industry about the challenges the future will bring. With everyone focused on the immediate demands in their own operation, there is little opportunity for people to consider the issues that are common across all operations. I think the challenges we face cannot be met by companies individually but will require collective action by the Canadian industry as a whole.

CIM: You have had an extensive career in mine operations and design. What has been the highlight of your career?

Morrison: The highlight of my early career in operations was helping to develop the means of managing rockburst in deep bulk mining operations. As a consultant, travelling internationally to all quarters of the globe has been a privilege but has reinforced the idea that all mines experience the same technical issues and exhibit very similar behaviourial characteristics. What varies is the way different national and ethnic cultures respond to the challenges they face and how the same message has to be expressed differently in order that it be accepted and acted upon. This is more than just translating into the local language; ideas have to be conveyed in a way that enables the audience to hear the message and take it on board before they can begin to implement a solution.

CIM: After speaking to a few CIM branches, do you feel you have achieved your intended goals?

Morrison: I think the lectures so far have been well received. In each case, the talk stimulated a conversation about the issues confronting the industry, which was my objective — not to provide information, but to initiate a larger dialogue that does not appear to be happening because everyone is so busy with trying to meet the immediate demands of their projects and operations.

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