June/July 2015

Entertaining big ideas

Convention attendees consider new ways to overcome obstacles facing miners around the world

By CIM Magazine staff | Riccardo Cellere Photography

The annual CIM Convention is a chance for miners to come together to talk shop, discover business opportunities and exchange knowledge. Throughout the jam-packed schedule that included various technical sessions, a trade exhibition and a thought-provoking plenary session, attendees focused on this year’s conference theme, New Dimensions, to help tackle the many challenges facing the mining industry.

During a time when companies are freezing conference budgets, CIM exceeded attendee estimates. The event welcomed more than 11,000 delegates from 47 countries to the Palais des Congrès de Montréal from May 10 to 13. The International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) Congress, held in conjunction with this year’s convention, provided the event with even more international exposure and added another 700 delegates to the mix.

Discussing new dimensions

Hundreds of mining professionals attended this year’s New Dimensions-themed plenary session to hear some of the industry’s biggest thinkers discuss innovation, leadership and the future of mining.

However, before the panelists took to the stage, International Trade Minister Ed Fast announced nearly $150,000 in funding from the federal government’s Global Opportunities for Associations fund awarded to CIM to help Canadian mining companies expand their businesses abroad. “Encouraging industry associations and their members to engage in the global marketplace is crucial for Canada’s long-term economic growth,” he said.

Quebec’s Minister of Mines, Luc Blanchette, also took time to reiterate the potential of the province’s northern development plan and the importance of social acceptability within local communities.

Among the plenary speakers, Pierre Lapointe, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal Mining Canada, discussed his company’s three keys to success: courageous leadership, a simplified organizational structure and operational excellence. “In a context where the competition is ferocious, the cohesion of these basic elements allows us to have a good conversation in a simple structural organization and a structured approach,” he said.

For Greg Lilleyman, group executive of technology and innovation at Rio Tinto, the company’s drive towards technological innovation, such as its automation initiatives and the recent opening of its Operational Analytics Centre, is another key to success in this day and age: “Technology is changing the industry and it has done so for many years.”

But instead of hiding these trade secrets and keys to success from each other, it is essential for the industry to work together to improve operations and the industry as a whole, according to Andrew Scott, senior director of mining information technology at Barrick Gold and chairman of the Global Mining Standards Group. “What I’m really passionate about is trying to get people to work together to better our industry, make it sustainable and, more importantly, well respected,” he remarked.

Glencore’s Raglan mine has taken the first step towards sustainability with the recent installation of a windmill to generate electricity. Kristan Straub, vice-president of the mine, said the next step is to integrate three energy storage systems into the power distribution grid.

For Jean Robitaille of Agnico Eagle, innovation is a must for the long-term survival of the industry. “The question is, ‘Are we rich enough to not innovate?’” he said. “The cost of innovating is nothing compared to lost revenue.”

Technically speaking

Solutions to some of the most advanced, challenging and unique questions facing the mining industry could be found at any one of this year’s technical sessions. The lineup, one of the largest and most comprehensive in recent years, was organized into 12 thematic streams, three of which were symposiums: innovation, maintenance engineering and underground mining, environmental paradigms, West Africa, operational excellence, explosives and blasting, geology and best practices, women in mining, Management and Finance Day, Ethics in Mining Symposium, Iron Ore Symposium and Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium.

Among the technical sessions, the ever-popular Management and Finance Day drew participants interested in learning about two of the most influential make-it or break-it factors for mining projects: hidden and strategic costs. One of the issues on tap was the costs associated with water management. “Companies are starting to move away from thinking about water as an environmental issue and towards thinking of it as a business risk issue,” said Emily Moore, director of water at Hatch. Moore noted that it can cost less to create an integrated water management plan in the early stages of a project, even before the prefeasibility stage. She revealed that costs are becoming clearer for aspects of mining that used to be abstract such as “the cost of a tailings pond that is getting very full with a rainy season coming.”

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