The culture of innovation is alive and thriving in Quebec’s exploration and mining industry – and these advancements are the result of a few remarkable individuals and organizations that are leading the charge in research initiatives.
There are many examples of academia reaching above and beyond as a major source of mining-related innovation, for Quebec and the rest of Canada. For example, McGill mining engineering professor Ferri Hassani — who has helped foster the growth of some of CMIC’s programs — is instrumental in leading the effort to bring the World Mining Congress to Montreal in 2013.
The Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) is also a major source of mining innovation for the province. Through the Unité de recherche et de service en technologie minérale, professors such as Denis Bois, Bruno Bussières and others, are actively engaged with industry. Their efforts are helping to set the direction mining research should take in the province and the country, in exploration, extraction, processing, environment and underground water.
Michel Jébrak and his colleagues do much the same at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), as do their fellow academics at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC). All three universities – UQAT, UQAM and UQAC – are members of CONSOREM, a mineral exploration research consortium that delves into mineral exploration technologies in Quebec. It represents a link between different members and partners of the minerals industry that come from the industrial, governmental and educational (university) fields.
Michel Aubertin and his colleagues at École Polytechnique de Montréal are also blazing new trails in the area of innovation, especially through the NSERC Chair in Environment and Tailings Management.
Meanwhile, Laval University is working with DIVEX, a geoscientific research network of about thirty researchers based in Quebec whose objective is to support mineral exploration diversification with the help of scientific research.
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A key figure on the Quebec innovation scene is Pierre Bérubé, president of Abitibi Géophysique. He and his staff are carrying out remarkable work in the field of exploration technology: not only are their new geophysical monitoring tools impressive but they have also established a unique multi-business set up in Val d’Or, Géopolis, which is made up of 11 “geo-related” companies operating under one roof. This opportunity for creating synergies between the companies is an asset for the Abitibi region, as well as the rest of Quebec.
Another major contributor to mining innovation is COREM, a consortium of applied research for the processing and transformation of mineral substances, located in Quebec City. Though COREM has tackled many challenges in the past, its struggles have obviously paid off, as today it has to work hard to keep up with research requests from its member companies. As well, executive director Yves Harvey serves on CMIC’s board as our treasurer.
A regionally significant research organization of note is Le Groupe MISA, whose mandate is to drive mining research in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec. MISA has funded considerable work in the area over the past few years, including projects in geosciences, drilling, mining extraction, energy efficiency, environment and HQP training.
A major player in CMIC’s own programming that I would like to acknowledge is François Robert, vice-president and chief geologist – global exploration, at Barrick Gold. Robert currently champions CMIC’s exploration initiative and has been instrumental in helping it arrive at a consensus on the major themes upon which exploration research in Canada needs to focus. The committee’s structure, established by Robert and his group, is now being copied by other CMIC initiatives.
I applaud the support that mining research receives in Quebec and hope it will continue well into the future. With numerous proposed large iron projects slated for northern Quebec and adjacent Labrador, it is clear that the iron industry will greatly benefit from new research efforts to ensure the profitability of these immense, remote and difficult to process deposits.
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.