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Special Report: Sudbury Conference Highlights

By Marek Krasuski

On February 6th & 7th, 2019 Sudbury hosted the second annual Beyond Digi tal Transformation (BDT) Conference. The theme of this year’s event, “Mining DisruptED,” was to call attention to new and emerging technologies that are changing the mining sector, and the challenges the industry needs to address. The occasion was spearheaded by a partnership between NORCAT, the Sudbury based innovation mining centre with an operating mine that helps companies develop their products in real world conditions, and the Partners in Achieving Change Excellence (PACE). PACE CEO Neha Singh described the conference as an opportunity to forge ahead and chart new paths of mining development. “This is about how to adopt new technologies and to maximize return on investment in the mining sector. Sharing ideas presented by various companies, this conference enables participants to learn what developments are underway in this dynamic sector,” she said. Principal mining companies like Barrick Gold, Vale and Goldcorp were on hand to apprise participants of their latest innovations. Singh was confident that companies in northern Ontario and elsewhere would learn what global mining companies are looking for in reaching new levels of digital transformation and how this knowledge could be used in achieving technology solutions. Mining has evolved almost beyond recognition from traditional practices of decades ago. Longstanding images of hard rock miners slaving away under punishing conditions has long since passed – at least in developed nations. In fact, as technology matures expect to see fewer jobs underground and more above ground workers with sophisticated technology-centred skill sets. Unlike yesteryear when mining extraction companies were major employers, today most mining jobs – fully three quarters of them – are to be found in the supply and services sector, smaller businesses that support the industry through innovative products and services. Northern Ontario is one of the world’s most developed and sophisticated mining innovation regions. Many of the Supply and Services companies here install their products and deliver services to companies all over the world. In cycles of robust development opportunities emerge for innovative companies in many sectors, among them transportation. On the list of companies with a transportation component that partner with NORCAT, the mining innovation centre in Sudbury, is Jannatec, creator of core technologies that contributes to the safe operations of mining vehicular equipment. Typical of risk to miners and equipment underground are collisions. These hazards arise from a miner’s limited ability to see and hear in tight environments where multiple operations are underway deep below the surface. To minimize collision incidence the company developed the Jannatec Advanced Warning System (J.A.W.S. 2). The alert programme comprises a series of radio frequency transceivers which are attached to all underground mining vehicles, personnel and hazards. The transceivers can be modified to match the specific requirements of each mine site. The devices detect and transmit warnings of other vehicles and personnel in the area. Mining personnel who receive a visual warning of moving loaders, tractors and trucks, for example, can take measures to remove themselves from approaching vehicles. Similarly, machine operators are warned of pedestrians in the vicinity. Larger underground equipment such as 50-tonne haulage trucks will receive a warning, allowing them to yield right of way to smaller vehicles before proceeding. This stand alone system can be easily integrated into standard safety practices. Symbotictware is another company that offers both hardware and software solutions to analyze data, maximize safety and improve asset utilization for the mining, environment, oil/gas, municipal and transportations industries. One product is SpeedGuard, a solution that prevents mobile equipment operators from over-speeding. This results in increased mine safety by preventing speeds in excess of equipment and mining company parameters. To be sure money is saved by minimizing premature component failure when operating above manufacturer specifications. Tesman, another Canadian manufacturing company, has developed devices to remove the miner from the dangers of direct contact with drill holes. It has mechanized the drilling of holes by attaching remote drills and other equipment to loaders. The operator then proceeds with drilling from a safe distance of 17 feet from the exploration site at the mine face. The control panel in front of the operator records vital data such as the depth of the drill holes and the material which has been extracted. The Remote Loader completely removes all water and debris from the holes, while the touch screen records endoscopic inspection of all holes along with comments about the status of the work. An additional product, Tesman’s Communication Station, generates customized reports for engineers, planners, and maintenance personnel. Each day key data such as drilling progress, machine productivity, ground conditions, drilling accuracy and machine maintenance can be monitored. Proceeds from this second annual Beyond Digital Transformation (BDT) conference partnered by PACE and NORCAT and supported by many sponsors were generously donated to several charities. For event highlights go to beyonddigitaltransformation.com.

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