Sustainable innovation in underground hardrock mining technology

Canadian leadership in a global mining context will depend not only on our entrepreneurship and best practice, but also in sustaining technological innovation. This paper reviews the nature of technological innovation and examines its link to productivity and competitiveness. It then examines how the ability to innovate is strongly influenced by corporate culture and user resistance. This is based on a review of the past research that has been useful in defining the nature and role of corporate culture.
An argument is made for more ambition and commitment to R&D for technological innovation in Canadian mining. It focuses on underground hardrock mining, where technological advances have been disappointing despite some significant R&D initiatives in the last 30 years. The paper reviews and analyzes a significant question: why have these R&D initiatives not stood the test of time? Concerns arise because industry’s commitment to R&D has not been consistent over time. Innovation through exploration, processing, and environmental technologies, on the other hand, has been much more significant. The paper examines some corporate models that have achieved sustainable innovation, along with some that have not. Particular reference is given to the Scandinavian prowess in sustaining technological innovation that has resulted in significant business development. Important factors that appear to explain the likelihood of success in technology development and transfer are corporate culture and user acceptance.
Specific attention is given to two areas for technological development that have been a Canadian priority in recent years: continuous mining systems and deep mining. Past and current R&D initiatives are examined from the point of view of the factors that appear to have controlled sustained commitment over time.
R&D capacity and synergies in Canadian government institutions and universities have tended to not be exploited effectively by industry. Following the recent recession, a lean industry now emerges with stretched human resources and even less spare capacity to devote to driving R&D and innovation. Unfortunately, over the recession period we have also lost many smaller mining technology companies. This further constrains any future collaboration in technology development. We also need to anticipate a skills and training crisis over the next decade that will seriously inhibit our ability to innovate. Technological innovation needs to be related also to a strategy for skills and learning. The trend to more company amalgamations, however, may strengthen the ability to sustain commitments to R&D.
The need for breakthrough innovation for high-
productivity underground hardrock mining is acute. This applies to quite distinct scenarios: narrow-vein, bulk, and massive mining. Advantage must be taken, while commodity prices are high, to commit planning and resources towards creating a sustainable research effort in appropriate technology areas. Canada appears to have lost a lead in underground hardrock production automation. This is most apparent in the offshore block caving operations in particular that are now close to successful field development and implementation.
It is important to invest on the up-cycle and plan a research effort that will be consistent and survive later cycles. A strategy for innovation needs to account for culture, commitment, coordination, and collaboration that brings together industry, governments, manufacturers, and universities.
CIM may have a significant role to play in this process. It is hoped that the new CIM Society for Innovative Mining Technology will help foster a strategy to reinvigorate R&D for innovation in the Canadian mining industry. It should offer a mechanism to bring together mine operators, consultants, researchers, and manufacturers towards a sustainable, collaborative R&D model. This could be a means to help to revitalize the Canadian manufacturing and high-technology companies serving the mining industry.
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Summary: An AG/SAG mill was commissioned at the Brunswick mine concentrator in October 1998. This paper discusses the original shell top hat liner design for the bi-directional AG/SAG mill, observed liner wear, subsequent liner design modifications, and benefits.
The original liners were steel chrome-moly steel Norsteel with rubber grates and rubber-lined pulp lifters. The design was based on experiences of other AG/SAG mills and recommendations by the liner supplier, Norcast. Liner design modificati...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): I. Orford, M. Cooper, C. Larsen, M. Renaud, P. Radziszewski, L. Strah
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: The blast furnace flue dust constitutes a substantial quantity of the wastes generated in the integrated steel plants. It is generally stored inside the plant premises causing environmental and space problems. Chemical analysis of a typical BF flue dust sample indicates that it contains high values of iron and carbon accompanied by harmful elements like Na, K, Zn, Pb, etc. depending on the chemistry of raw material used in the blast furnace operation. These elements are considered a major...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): P.K. Naik, B. Das, P.S.R. Reddy, V.N. Misra
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: The engineering properties of rocks are directly affected by their mineralogical and petrographical properties. In spite of the presence of a limited number of studies investigating the relations between mineralogical and petrographical properties of rocks and their cuttability and diggability, there are a vast number of investigations on the relations between these features and drillability. Many important statistical relationships have been put forward throughout time; however, in these...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): Y. Özçelik
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: Hydrogen fuel cells are a known technology, having been applied to stationary (e.g. equipment, buildings, and power plants) and vehicle applications (e.g. transit buses and space shuttles). There is currently a growing need to provide alternate power systems to diesel fuel for underground mining vehicles to improve underground air quality and reduce production costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Fuel cells offer a total solution, reducing heat and noise generation as well as having no...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): M.C. Bétournay, G. Bonnell, E. Edwardson, W. Lidkea
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: Measurable improvements in throughput have been documented at Barrick Goldstrike due to increased ore fragmentation through efficient drilling and blasting techniques.
A decrease in throughput at the autoclave, due to increasingly hard ore, was identified in early 2002. A team of individuals from the open pit and process areas worked closely on a continuous improvement initiative to ensure that it would address the needs of both groups, with the target of actually improving throughput in...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): M. Rantapaa, R. Mckinstry, T. Bolles
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: To improve the economic and environmental performance of underground mining operations, it is common practice to return the metallurgical waste material underground as backfill. This type of backfill is called hydraulic backfill and is used to fill the mined-out areas not exposed to further mining. To provide mechanical support for underground mining, a cemented backfill is normally used. An important parameter for determining the suitability of hydraulic and stabilized backfill is its...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): J. Petrolito, R.M. Anderson, S.P. Pigdon
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: Hydraulic shovels are widely used for primary production in surface mining operations. The efficiency and costs of mining operations greatly depend on the efficient use of these capital-intensive machines. The shovel-truck mining method is flexible and efficient, however, it can be rendered inefficient from field and operator constraints. Physical and mechanical properties of the formation have a severe impact on a shovel’s efficiency. Variability in material diggability, unstructured mining...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): S. Frimpong, Y. Hu
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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Summary: Fluctuating metal prices, declining head grade, and increased operational costs are forcing many open pit mining companies to look to their balance sheets for significant cost reductions in order to remain competitive. Maintenance continues to represent a significant proportion of the total operating costs in the mining industry. Compared with the other major cost components of the mining process, very little effort has gone into maintenance optimization. The potential payoff from maintenance...
Publication: CIM Bulletin
Author(s): J. Werner, M.W. Lewis
Issue: 1085
Volume: 98
Year: 2005
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