Mining industry undergoing ‘remarkable transformation’

Chrisanne Daniel News

Originally published on northernontariobusiness.com by Lindsay Kelly.

At a time when the mining industry is undergoing a sea change in technology and innovation, it’s never been more important to engage youth and educate them about the available opportunities in the sector.

That was the message shared on April 21 during the annual business luncheon to kick off Modern Mining and Technology Week 2017 in Sudbury. The weeklong event features activities geared toward elementary and high school students to educate them about the mining sector and encourage them to consider pursuing careers in the industry.

Honorary chair Don Duval said the sector is in the midst of a “remarkable transformation” that is seeing the industry adopt innovation and new technology at an extraordinary rate, and he’s witnessing this change firsthand in his capacity as executive director of Sudbury’s Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT).

“The volume of activity of clientele that are using our facility at NORCAT, the underground centre to test and showcase mining technologies, is happening at a rate that is far more significant than in the history of our organization,” he said.

“So, the new developments, new investments, new innovations at this point are happening at a rate that’s unprecedented.”

Mining companies are divesting their research and development resources, but there are still real problems that need to be solved, he noted, which is making way for a wave of new startup companies to come up with solutions.

“More mining technology companies are starting today than there ever have been in the history of the industry,” he said, “so this vibrant transformation of the builders of innovation is truly remarkable.”

Duval noted the industry’s anticipated labour shortage, which is predicated on an exodus of retiring workers over the next eight to 10 years in addition to the introduction of new technologies.

A new generation of workers coming into the industry will have a “strong expectation” that technology will play a major factor in their jobs, he noted. Companies that invest in technology and innovation will come out ahead when seeking and retaining young talent.

“The mining industry is following in the footsteps of many other industries that have already gone through this transformation,” Duval said.

“But if you have a salient, meaningful discussion with prospective worker, show them the cadre of technologies that we utilize in the mining job, those companies that do that, invest in that, will win the battle for talent going forward.”

That’s why Modern Mining and Technology Week is so important, as it helps educate the area’s youth about modern mining, said Lori Martin, chair of Modern and Mining Technology Sudbury, the sponsor organization.

Starting now to generate interest amongst youth will help stabilize the sector and ensure it continues to grow, she added.

“For this next generation that are coming up in a world that is more socially and environmentally conscious than ever before, and with an incredible amount of information at their fingertips, we are working to make sure our message — a positive message — is heard about the opportunities that await in modern mining,” Martin said.

Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger noted the importance of sharing with the public the innovative work of the city’s mining cluster, regionally and further afield, and commended the city’s mining clusters for their work in attracting new talent.

“We can’t underestimate the ability of students, because they look to us for mentoring and are eager to contribute to our community,” Bigger said.

“We must continue to provide them with opportunities to be engaged, allow them to learn about the issues of today, and guide them in a way that meets industry demand.”

As part of the business luncheon, attendees also heard from Steve Woolfenden, director of environment at IAMGOLD, about the company’s Côté Gold project, located near Gogama, south of Timmins.