August 2010

Innovation

The Canada Mining Innovation Council: Update on accomplishments

By T. Hynes

The Canada Mining Innovation Council’s (CMIC) vision is to ensure Canada is a global leader in the mining industry through cutting-edge research and innovation. It represents a partnership between the mining industry, associations, academia and government, with a commitment to two primary goals:

  • Increasing 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.
  • Increasing the supply of highly qualified graduates from mining and earth science faculties to meet the significant current and future demand of industry, government and academia.

The impetus for what eventually became CMIC began in 2006 and 2007 with discussions between interested parties from industry, academia and government. It has since matured and developed into its current incorporated status, with wide-ranging, cross-sector support from coast to coast.

Achievements along the way

In September 2007, federal, provincial and territorial mines ministers met and endorsed the establishment of the Canada Mining Innovation Council. With the endorsement came a request that the Council develop a Pan-Canadian Mining Research and Innovation Strategy to be presented at the 2008 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference. Launched in the fall of 2007, CMIC’s transitional board of directors was drawn from industry, academia and government, with a secretariat supported by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM).

CMIC’s first order of business was to develop the research strategy requested by the mines ministers. In early 2008, it sought the Canadian mining community’s input on the economic, social and environmental drivers that would shape the future of mining research and innovation in Canada, as well as the significant areas of challenge and opportunity. These were provided through seven regional workshops held in early 2008 involving over 150 leaders from the private, public and academic sectors. CMIC then commissioned the following:

  • four expert papers covering the full mining cycle (exploration, extraction, processing and cross-cutting environmental issues);
  • a report on mining strategies in foreign jurisdictions; and 
  • a report on the strategies and initiatives being undertaken by Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments to support the Canadian exploration and mining sector.

Setting priorities

This information was used to prioritize the research needs of the industry and, subsequently, to create the Pan-Canadian Mining Research and Innovation Strategy. The strategy was brought back to the mines ministers in September 2008, where it was reviewed and approved.

As part of the effort to develop the implementation plan for targeted areas of research, four working groups were established to address the themes of environment (energy, water, tailings and effluent management), exploration, deep mining and process efficiency.

Workshops were held in December 2008 and January 2009 to identify priority projects of a national scale for early implementation. CMIC also endorsed NRCan’s Green Mining Initiative as the main vehicle to cover its environmental priority.

Another priority for CMIC is the issue of Highly Qualified People (HQP). In May 2008, a first workshop occurred with industry and academic leaders to discuss the present and future needs for HQP in the field of mineral extraction. Additional workshops covering the other aspects of the mining cycle are being planned. As part of the HQP Implementation Plan, CMIC worked with the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) to develop a study aimed at determining the current and projected industry supply and demand for HQP in all phases of the mining cycle. It also sought to increase the understanding of the barriers and opportunities in the attraction, development and retention of HQP in the industry. MiHR received $400,000 last August from Human Resources Skills Development Canada to proceed with this study. A CMIC representative will sit on the project advisory committee.

In the summer of 2009, with the mining industry still in the midst of a global economic slump, CMIC and its members raised $139,100 to support work terms for 23 students in industry and for academic placements on mining-related projects. During 2010, a further 17 such students will be employed.

The CMIC board also participated in the proposal of a series of important innovative projects to be funded through the Canada Community Adjustment Funds. In August 2009, the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) received $4,250,600 to install, test and measure the efficiency of novel ventilation-on-demand technologies to decrease mining costs and increase productivity. This project covers part of CMIC’s energy efficiency mandate, a portion of which has been provided by NRCan, which has funded consultant reports on energy-efficient, alternative fuels and technologies, and demand management.

CMIC board

In March 2009, CMIC was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. A first permanent board of 14 members was nominated a couple months later, and a subsequent board was elected at the first CMIC annual general meeting in May 2010.

The first executive director was hired in August 2009 on a one-year contract, and a subsequent permanent director will be hired within the next few months. The board has also decided to have a permanent secretariat and is seeking the support of industry, associations, universities and governments for its operations. A strategic alliance with CIM was formed in October 2009 to provide administrative, accounting and communications services to CMIC.

Recent developments

For 2010, three main issues were chosen by the CMIC board for further development: exploration technology, energy efficiency and tailings management. For each of these topics, an organizing committee, which includes an industry champion, is planning a series of workshops to define research priorities and process development. CMIC’s goal is to launch two collaborative research programs on these issues with national scale and strategic focus on these issues this year. The Exploration Technology Program is probably the most advanced at this time, and has engaged champions from industry to fund the development of a research program proposal. Preliminary discussions with potential funding agencies are quite positive.

Information letters about CMIC and its mission have been sent to the vice-presidents of research (or equivalent) of every Canadian university where geosciences or mining-related programs are provided. Several of these universities have since become members of CMIC. A CMIC policy manual and a business plan are currently being developed in preparation for the CMIC annual general meeting next spring.

For the other priority areas of the Pan-Canadian Mining Research and Innovation Strategy, CMIC, in collaboration with CIM, is currently developing a website dedicated to innovation, as proposed by the Collaboration and Innovation Systems and Culture Working Groups. E-communications tools will be developed that can be used as networking tools between members of the Canadian mining research community. Recently, companies such as 3M, and others, have volunteered time and resources to help CMIC reach consensus on its “brand” for the website and other communication vehicles.

In May 2009, CMIC issued its first InnovaMine newsletter, which was distributed to all delegates at the CIM Conference and Exhibition 2009 in Toronto. This anniversary issue represents the third instalment; a monthly electronic version has been proposed. If the e-newsletter receives the green light, it would be slated to start this coming fall, coinciding with the new website going live.


Tom Hynes
Tom Hynes has worked in the uranium and base metals industries, and has been a provincial regulator and a federal government research manager. He is the executive director of the Canada Mining Innovation Council.

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