VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Canadian gold major Goldcorp is acting as a catalyst to bring innovation into the mining industry, an industry traditionally loathe to adopt new technologies that could ultimately improve the bottom line.
As exemplified in its leading role in sponsoring the #DisruptMining competition during the recent Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC’s) international convention, Goldcorp is leading the charge in breaking down walls between competitors in the sector to establish new partnerships that can improve efficiencies and profits, Goldcorp executive VP and COO Todd White tells Mining Weekly Online.
A key trend he observed during the recent PDAC convention, held in Toronto, was that the mining industry is ready and, indeed, moving beyond innovation to focus on implementation strategies with “meaningful tangibles”.
“The industry has been talking about innovation for a long time, but it is only now becoming apparent that partnerships are being formed to access and implement new technologies to improve efficiencies,” he said.
Among the technologies White helped adjudicate in the recent #DisruptMining competition, which was sponsored by Goldcorp and junior project developer Integra Gold, Kore Geosystems’ solution for data acquisition while drilling raised significant interest, as it will be able to interpret data while drilling, potentially fast-tracking exploration campaigns and reducing costs and complexity.
Kore Geosystems secured a $500 000 prize for its concept of installing instruments onto a drill rig to provide real-time geological data to help better identify potential deposits.
Cementation Canada, a member of the Murray & Roberts group, was the co-winner of the $1-million-dollar grand prize in the #DisruptMining competition.
Selected as one of five finalists from 153 submissions, the firm, which was also the winner of the prestigious People’s Choice Award as the audience favourite, collected overall final winnings of $650 000 after pitching its Injection Hoisting technology in a ‘Shark Tank’ format to a panel for review.
Using a combination of existing and proven crushing, pumping and slurry technologies, Cementation has developed a proof-of-concept model for process injection hoisting that would eliminate the need for mine shaft production hoisting or trucking, by transporting ore to the surface using a pump-driven pipeline loop.
Cementation and Kore will now have the opportunity to meet with Goldcorp to work out a deal worth $1-million.
“We want to act as a catalyst to drive innovation in the sector. Some of the entrants did bring new surprising ideas to the table, despite the short timeframe of only about four to five weeks from when the contest was first announced, to the submissions deadline,” White noted, adding that some entrants saw the contest as an opportunity to enter existing products and solutions they have developed and take advantage of the marketing mileage they received.
White said Goldcorp and Integra have already started preliminary planning for another round of the contest during next year’s PDAC convention, this time offering a longer lead time for teams, with a narrower scope of what kind of innovative solutions will qualify.
“It was a good start, but it can be improved upon.”
White, a board member of the Canadian Mining Innovation Council, said the mining industry as a whole, and gold miners specifically, have struggled to work together in the past as they have always regarded one another as rivals. That, however, is starting to change. “The walls are coming down.”
He cites the cost of entry as being the fundamental barrier to adopting new technologies among miners, with it being exponentially harder for the juniors, who often struggle financially with no stable source of revenue.
Vancouver-based Goldcorp sees the most potential for innovation as residing in the modernisation of its underground mining fleet by upgrading it to electric vehicles (EV). White explained that the company has been working with original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to increase the size of available underground EVs. Particularly, it and other majors are collaborating with OEMs to upsize the EV package to 40 t underground trucks, for instance, which are not yet commercially available.
"By partnering with the OEMs, we are incentivising them to make innovative products we need,” White explained.
He notes that Goldcorp’s current portfolio is underground-weighted, making the need for underground EVs so much more pressing, as the amount of internal combustion-driven equipment is directly tied to the amount of ventilation installed in the underground operation.
White points to the Borden project, in Ontario, where Goldcorp has committed to implement an entire EV fleet to improve operational efficiencies, flexibility and its green credentials.
Goldcorp has identified two priority areas for innovation – energy reduction and water efficiency.
Goldcorp has launched the H2zero initiative to drive down water use and conservation at its operations, where it is targeting water use reductions of between 80% and 100%. “We call it a ‘moonshot’ and it will certainly require new technologies to achieve this, but we’ll lead the market towards our ‘toward zero water’ initiative."
White said he has challenged his team of mine engineers to come up with a solution to reach the lofty goal of 0% water wastage at its operations, but conceded that that solution might still be some way off.
Meanwhile, the company is also introducing what it calls Eco Tails – the dry-stacking of tailings that helps to address the social image of mining and environmental concerns, while simultaneously improving operating parameters.
The dry-stacking of tailings is becoming common practice at smaller operations, but could be cost-prohibitive at larger mines, White said. Goldcorp is currently looking at options for implementing this more environmentally benign technology to the 130 000-t/d-plus Peñasquito mine – Mexico’s largest gold mine.
“We need to further lower the cost involved. Even if we can reduce water use by 80%, it’s a first step in the right direction,” White stated.
White says the holy grail of gold mining innovation will be the advent of cyanide-free gold recovery, but until that can be accomplished, Goldcorp is focusing on improving systems it can control. Among these count a major push to upgrade its grinding circuits, working with OEMs to design and test the next generation that will be 30% to 40% more efficient.
STRENGTH IN DIVERSITY
With International Women's Day celebrated on Wednesday, White pointed to Goldcorp’s existing policies promoting diversity in the workplace. Goldcorp has a graduate training programme through which it gives chemical and mine engineering graduates the chance to rotate at its various mine sites in Canada to gain experience.
“We typically target diversity in the group of candidates each year, with the longer-term view of growing candidates in our own company culture,” he said.
As a prime example, White cited the Century project at the Porcupine mine, in Timmins, Ontario – one of the world’s longest operating mines – which is currently under the leadership of a woman.