Technology - Is it working for you?

CIM Edmonton 2004
Douglas McLean Morrison,
Abstract Over the past 50 years, the mining industry, particularly in underground mining, has seen a tremendous increase in mechanisation. As the level of technology employed has increased, the anticipated productivity gains have not been realised and the productivity losses are not explained by the demand for higher standards of safety and security. Now, at the end of this period of unparalleled technological development, mining costs are so high and productivity so low that the resultant return on investment for many Canadian operations has fallen to levels considered unacceptable in a competitive capital market. Simply continuing technological development cannot bring about a reversal of this trend and its financial implications.

The focus on technological development has detracted from the value of some basic truths. Systems that are more complex are more likely to fail and cost-effective processes depend on the continuity of productive activity and the flow of material. When putting these facts together, it becomes clear that in a system that has fixed external conditions, the single most crucial issue is the effective management of the operational cycle. By its nature, technology focuses our attention on what gets done and how it gets done, while the crucial issue is the increasingly longer periods in the operational cycle when nothing productive is being done. What is required is to match the level of technological complexity to the fixed system conditions, which are virtually unchangeable. This paper looks at the overall system and objectives and attempts to present the appropriate level of technology for the Canadian mining industry, now and in the foreseeable future.

Charles Graham
Douglas Morrison

Sudbury, Ontario
December 17, 2003
Keywords: return, Technology, Mining, Equipment, Costs, Investment
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