By Todd White, Goldcorp Chief Operating Officer
Companies today are facing increasing pressure to rethink their operations throughout the entire mining life cycle to manage more effectively, boost productivity, improve safety and operate in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
In a recent mining trends report by Deloitte, the firm highlighted the need for miners to unlock productivity through innovation and digital thinking: going beyond driverless trucks, sensors and advanced analytics to reduce cost, streamline equipment maintenance and prevent safety incidents. New technology such as drones, real-time modeling and geo-coding are driving the next wave of productivity gains.
Mining lags behind other industries in its digital maturity. Increasing the pace of technological innovation and adoption represents a massive opportunity to fundamentally reshape our business, optimize all aspects of our operations and drive Net Asset Value (NAV) growth. We are already successfully applying many integrated digital solutions throughout our operations, but we need to do more to leapfrog us into the next generation of mining.
Goldcorp’s ‘ticket to play’ in this digital transformation is in our portfolio of young mines, equipped with a strong, reliable technological backbone enabling digital expansion. A case in point is the deployment of a single multiservice IP network at our Éléonore underground mine, providing secure wireless communications to improve safety, reduce maintenance and operating costs.
As part of Goldcorp’s Digital Transformation Strategy, we are targeting new technological opportunities in six areas that are ripe for innovation, covering every stage of the mining life cycle, from exploration and development to operations and reclamation:
- Big Data and Machine Learning: Next generation cognitive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in exploration will significantly increase success in locating reserves, mine planning and increasing mine life, similar to what the oil and gas sector has achieved with IBM’s Watson technology. Whereas Microsoft’s HoloLens technology promises to take mine planning and virtual interaction to a whole new level. The HoloLens projects three-dimensional digital images into one’s field of view as if it were appearing before them in real life, enabling mining professionals to communicate and collaborate from remote locations by visualizing and interacting with high-definition holograms of the mine.
- The Connected Miner: The Internet of Things, cloud computing and mobile solutions are enabling the connected mine of the future. Connectivity is the technological backbone of the 21st century mine improving communication, response, and productivity. Creating a mobile-enabled workforce supported by digital identification, tracking and monitoring of personnel and equipment, as we have done at our Eleonore mine for Ventilation on Demand technology, is just the beginning.
- Autonomous Mining Operations: Driverless trucks connected wirelessly, and remotely monitored autonomous drilling, mucking and hauling operations removes workers from hazardous environments boosting safety and providing more reliable, efficient operations, consistent with the results we are starting to achieve at Red Lake and Eleonore;
- More sustainable mines with smaller environmental footprints: As a sustainable company, we are committed to finding new ways to reduce our environmental footprint through greater use of renewable energy and carbon neutral equipment. Our Borden Gold property is set to become the first all-electric mine in Canada, dramatically reducing GHG emissions and improving worker health and safety. Filtered/dry tailings and a concerted effort to drastically reduce fresh water use in mine operations underpin our H2Zero strategy. One aspect of tackling the challenge is our new Eco-Tails technology representing a giant leap forward in tailings management. We’ll discuss those in more detail in upcoming posts.
- Operations and Reclamation: Advanced data collection and real-time analytics improves insight-based decision making and continuous optimization from mine planning, preventative equipment maintenance right through to production and reclamation. At Goldcorp, planning for mine closure starts long before the mine even opens. Analytics, simulation monitoring, and enhanced 3D technologies are essential to support geotechnical, hydrogeological and geochemical modelling ensuring a reclaimed mine site is structurally sound, and leaves behind a positive sustainable legacy. This is the approach we’re taking closing the Marlin mine, where we’ve already used 3.2 million cubic metres of filtered tailings mixed with cement to create an engineered structure in a seismically sensitive area, where drought and floods alternate with the seasons.
- Safety and Environmental Re-Engineering: We will continue to advance our use of smart sensors and monitoring to improve safety and enhance preventative maintenance as part of our Tailings Stewardship Strategy. At Equity Silver, a customized automated monitoring system using radio monitoring stations, digital cameras and strategically-placed sensors and prisms capture real-time information on water levels, the structural integrity of the dam, and other important parameters that ensure dam safety and reliability.
Virtually every area of mining is undergoing a technological seismic shift. At the forefront of the innovative transformation of mining are disruptive technologies – groundbreaking new technologies that replace existing technologies and shakes up an industry. Goldcorp is challenging the mining industry to embrace innovation by integrating and adopting these new disruptive technologies into their operations.
Towards this end, Goldcorp along with Integra Gold Corp. are hosting #DisruptMining, a marquee event at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) on March 5th, 2017.
Widespread adoption of disruptive technologies represents an unparalleled opportunity for innovation and collaboration that will help redefine our industry, making it stronger and more responsive to the needs of the market, our employees and society.
Over the following weeks leading up to the #DisruptMining Expo, we will run a blog series featuring #DisruptMining’s technological partners and other innovative initiatives advancing at Goldcorp