VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Every conceivable area of mining is in dire need of technological innovation, major miner Goldcorp tells Mining Weekly Online in an interview.
"We are not exactly the most advanced industry in the world, and we're slow in adopting new technologies. Every area is ripe for innovation," Goldcorp's VP for technology Luis Canepari says.
According to him, perhaps the most critical area in need of innovation is exploration.
He explains that, these days, across the entire mining industry, the exploration success rate is very low. "Anything that we can do to improve those results have a direct correlation to improving the bottom line. That is why we are spending big on exploration innovation."
With Goldcorp producing in the vicinity of 2.5-million ounces of gold a year, it becomes imperative for the company to find new deposits to replace mined-out reserves.
"It becomes harder and harder every year, as deposits are becoming deeper and located in more remote locations. It's a challenge not only for Goldcorp, but for every mining company. That's why innovation really helps to make some of these deposits more viable, more cost efficient and can help to add previously uneconomic ounces into mine plans," he says.
Since the first #DisruptMining contest was held last year, Goldcorp has reaped so much success out of it that it jumped at the opportunity to again sponsor the event this year.
"We got so much success out of the first year that it was really a catalyst for us to start investing in new technologies and looking at new ways to manage our mining operations. So much so that our senior leadership, especially COO Todd White, decided to support the project again this year."
According to Canepari, the quality of the contest submissions has gone up significantly compared with last year.
"One can see that it took a lot of effort for participants to prepare their submissions. We have received over a hundred proposals and have by now already selected the top 12, which have been notified this week. We hope to have selected the three finalists, who will pitch their competing innovations on March 4 to a "shark-tank" style panel of industry dignitaries, by next week," Canepari explains.
He says that Goldcorp has, since last year, formed a great relationship with the co-winners Cementation Canada, a member of the Murray & Roberts group, and Kore Geosystems, which secured half the C$1-million prize money for their concept of installing instruments onto a drill rig to provide real-time geological data to help better identify potential deposits.
"In the end, we ended up investing in several of the top contenders. Of note is the great relationship we have formed with Kore. We now have an equity participation in the company and we're helping them develop a prototype that we hope will be ready next year for operations at our mines. To automate this specific process in our mines is going to be great not only for us, but for everyone."
Goldcorp is already a leader in technological innovation, as is demonstrated by a project at the Red Lake mine, in Ontario, where it is applying artificial intelligence to assist in processing huge volumes of geological data, with the aim of identifying new drill targets.
"I have not heard of any other mining company doing this and this is a good example of how technological innovation is putting us at the forefront."
Another project that he likes is the one at the new Borden mine, in Northern Ontario, where, as part of Goldcorp's '20/20/20 Strategy' by 2021, it is fully automating and electrifying the underground mine. "It will help to reduce the footprint by removing all the diesel generators."
In other fields, Goldcorp is also driving pioneering initiatives to reduce the volume of water required in process flow sheets, and especially in the way tailings are treated. Goldcorp is a big supporter of dry-stacked, or eco-tailings, which it believes will further enhance its corporate environmental profile.
Up for grabs in this year's #DisruptMining contest is up to C$1-million in investment for a proof of concept at one of Goldcorp's mines or direct investment in the winning technologies. All proceeds from the #DisruptMining finale event will be invested in the future of the mining industry through innovation-focused scholarships. The finale will be held during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's 2018 event in Toronto, considered the largest mining convention in the world.