Mining activity in south-central B.C. is booming and this activity was the backdrop for the latest Maintenance Engineering/Mine Operators (MEMO)
conference, which attracted more than 700 exhibitors, delegates and visitors to Kamloops, the region’s mining centre.
In 2011, Copper Mountain went into production, and close on its heels New Gold commissioned the New Afton mine – Canada’s only block caving operation. KGHM
International has proposed yet another project near Kamloops, and Teck Resources’ Highland Valley Copper, a long-time producer, is in the middle of a major
mill upgrade. “Kamloops is the mining hub for B.C. right now,” confirmed metallurgical consultant Tom Shouldice, who is a member of CIM’s South Central
British Columbia Branch and a director of business development group Venture Kamloops. The city, said Shouldice, has the advantage of being a supply hub
for not only local mines but also for operations like Taseko’s Gibraltar mine and Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine, just a few hours to the north.
MEMO’s technical program followed three tracks – maintenance and reliability; mining and process operations; and responsible mining – and balanced
presentations from operations with those of equipment and service suppliers. All of the presentations, explained technical program co-chair Jo-Anne
Boucher, were reviewed to make sure they were both factually accurate and also appropriate for the engineering and operations audience. “We wanted to
ensure the program was technically sound, case study-based and met the needs of operators,” she explained.
Highland Valley Copper, a fixture of the B.C. mining scene, was a vital contributor to the technical proceedings. Brian Connors, a reliability engineer at
the mine, outlined the operation’s work to replace its worn-out flotation circuit and pebble crushers. This includes an extensive scaling up of
reliability-centred maintenance (RCM) work – over 100 RCM sessions and counting – to ensure the new installation performs to expectations once the work is
completed, which is scheduled to be in January. Another Highland Valley presentation detailed the impressive progress the operation has made in instituting
a “no idling” policy to reduce diesel consumption and emissions.
Whenever you gather miners at a conference, inevitably the topic of skills shortages arises. “Entry level miners aren’t getting lessons passed down,” said
Redpath Group electrical engineer Jeremy Berg. In response, he described how the company has adapted its shaft sinking equipment to make it more familiar
to workers from other industries.
The need to innovate also animated the event’s plenary session. SMS Komatsu CEO Bruce Knight explained his company has established its own training program
to sharpen the skills of operators and technicians as apprenticeships at mining operations become rarer. Sean Waller, CEO of Candente Copper, lauded the
longevity of mining in the Highland Valley as an “example of mining done right” and suggested that project planners should be more mindful of the social
and economic impacts of high-volume, short-lived mines on the communities that host them. Robert Pease, CEO of Sabina Gold, and Keith Matthew, former chief
of the local Simpcw First Nation, joined Knight and Waller on the panel that was moderated by Colin Joudrie, Teck Resources’ vice-president of business
The sold-out trade show, which included roughly 80 product and service providers looking to connect with operations and maintenance professionals,
demonstrated the industry’s innovative spirit. “Miners are very inventive people,” said Rob Taylor, president of RST Instruments. The company’s convergence
monitoring system was the result of its collaboration with the operations team at the New Afton mine. “They are thinking stuff up all the time,” he said.
“They ask us if we can do ‘x’, and we say ‘Why not?’”
MEMO 2014 will be hosted by the Quebec North-East Branch in Sept-Iles, Quebec, September 11 to 14, 2014.