February 2010


The Canada Mining Innovation Council: Building bridges on the road to leading-edge research and innovation in mining

By A. Blancarte

Innovation is quite literally the Canadian Mining Innovation Council’s (CMIC) middle name. Created in 2008, the government- and industry-funded council is forging ahead with its mandate to make Canada’s mining industry among the most innovative and successful in the world.

Advancing technical priorities

The CMIC’s Board-approved business action plan aims to promote a shared vision by engaging the minerals industry and the provincial and federal governments in the support of CMIC, and in the advancement of three technical priorities: energy, exploration technology, and tailings management. For each of these priorities, CMIC has engaged industry champions to lead development work.  Activities are being carried out to launch two collaborative research programs with a national scale and strategic focus in 2010.

Energy: Xstrata Nickel CEO Ian Pierce has agreed to champion a CEO engagement on energy and mining in the spring of 2010. Planning is currently underway for the largest electrical energy consumers in the mining industry and their corresponding provincial hydro utilities to discuss collaborative research into energy efficiency and energy innovation.

Exploration: CMIC, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) have partnered with Barrick Gold Corporation, which will serve as an industry champion, in the Exploration Research Initiative. Six companies — Barrick, De Beers Canada, Vale Inco, Ur-Energy Inc., Teck Resources Limited and Cameco Corporation — are funding and participating in a consultative exercise to define a national program of research and technology innovation.

Tailings: CMIC engaged oil sands operators Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Imperial Oil Limited, Shell, Suncor Energy, Syncrude Canada Ltd. and Total E&P Canada in a dialogue about collaborative research opportunities and to assess their interest in working as an industry to further tailings technology.

In addition to these initiatives, the 3M Company is championing and funding a mining innovation workshop activity for the spring of 2010.

Sharing the knowledge

The CMIC communications effort will employ state-of-the-art electronic tools to make information available on demand through searchable research navigation rings, webinars, discussion boards, etc. These tools will enable us to effectively disseminate knowledge and know-how, create collaborative opportunities and engage a geographically disperse audience while maintaining a low environmental footprint.  To accomplish this, a new CMIC website is being constructed with direct support from CIM. The new website will be operational by April at www.cmic-ccim.org.

Supporting people in the mining industry

Another priority for CMIC is ensuring the supply of highly qualified people (HQP) to the mining industry. To support this, the Mining Industry Human Resources (MiHR) Council is studying the current and projected supply and demand for HQP in all phases of the mining cycle, to gain a better understanding of the barriers and opportunities in attracting, developing and retaining them.

This past summer, with the mining industry still in the midst of a global economic crisis, CMIC rallied the forces of PDAC, CIM, industry and academic institutions to support summer work terms for 22 students across Canada.

Partnerships and collaboration

CMIC’s mission of achieving global leadership in mining technology and innovation to support a responsible mining industry resonates with many organizations. These same organizations have stepped forward to collaborate with CMIC, and our work would not be possible without their engagement. Some of the collaborative milestones undertaken in the past six months include the following:

  • Signing an MOU with CIM in November 2009 as the foundation for a strategic partnership.  CIM will provide administrative, accounting and communications services, and will work with CMIC to advance common-interest initiatives.
  • Securing funding, strategic advice and support in the development of key programs from NRCan. The current president of the CMIC Board co-chairs the Green Mining Initiative Advisory Committee from NRCan. Both CANMET and GSC are providing support to the energy and exploration initiatives through studies, financial support and technical guidance.
  • Inviting Canadian universities with geoscience or mining-related programs to become CMIC members. To keep the momentum going, an outreach campaign to industry and academic institutions will begin in the spring of 2010.
  • Obtaining official endorsement from the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), CIM, PDAC and Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE) boards.
  • Receiving MAC’s approval for a financial contribution towards the CMIC Secretariat for 2010. Nine member companies — ArcelorMittal, Cameco Corporation, BHP Billiton, Kinross Gold Corporation, Suncor, Teck Resources Limited, Vale Inco, Xstrata Nickel and Xstrata Copper — have agreed to share the cost.

Industry support and engagement with CMIC is essential for our success and it requires outreach and dialogue. Collaborative research projects also require engagement with the academic community. On the strength of our partners’ support, CMIC continues to move forward in its efforts to establish a Pan Canadian Mining and Innovation Strategy.

Alicia Blancarte is the executive director for CMIC. She is interested in exploring the use of industrial design, change management and technology transfer to advance sustainability in the mining industry.

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