The resource sector has tended towards insular behaviour. When dealing with fluctuating metal prices, increasingly low-grade ore and rising costs, mining companies historically turn inward for solutions.
The news stories following this year’s annual Prospector and Developers Association of Canada conference (PDAC), had a markedly different tone, with several post-conference articles reporting on the “disruptions” in mining industry technology. The flagship story was about Goldcorp and its #disruptmining initiative where the company solicited pitches from technology companies for the “next big idea to revolutionize mining”.
It’s pretty exciting to think augmented and virtual reality have a place in a traditional industry such as mining. But it’s already happening. Goldcorp is working with technology majors like Microsoft, IBM, CISCO and Accenture on a variety of projects to increase safety and efficiency and decrease costs at their sites. Late last year, Barrick Gold and Cisco entered into an agreement centred around digitizing existing Barrick data to allow for increased productivity and efficiency.
In BC’s backyard, MineSense Technologies is developing a mineral sensing platform that will provide accurate, real-time information about ore bodies and reduce the CO2 emissions and the consumption of energy and water during the whole mining process.
I spent two days at the #BCTECH Summit last week. The conference highlighted other brilliant technology being developed by BC tech companies. I was surprised to note how often local tech companies were piloting their developments on natural resource and energy projects.
From my perspective, there is a reciprocal relationship between the two industries. Look at how much copper is used in clean-tech and other technology solutions. Natural resources have long been the backbone of the Canadian economy. And now, the country’s capacity to grow Canadian-made innovation is increasing. Sometimes we question whether Canada should be investing in further developing the resource sector or the technology sector. But that’s the wrong question. Investments in resource development and technology development are not mutually exclusive.
I’ve worked in a variety of technology-based organizations for most my career, and I’ve acted as a bridge between natural resources and technologies. Those companies who find the right solution and execute it quickly are better able to withstand the market turmoil. I think that means instead of just continuing with agreements and partnerships, we’ll see a mining company + technology company joint venture before we see the end of this decade.
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