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NRC comes to aid of mining industry

February 11, 2014
by Norm Tollinsky
In: News

High Efficiency Mining program offers up 45 FTE researchers for six years

The National Research Council of Canada has announced the establishment of a High Efficiency Mining program to develop costeffective technology solutions for mining remote and lower grade ore and ensure the competitiveness of Canada’s mining industry.

A year and a half in the works, the program allocates 45 full-time equivalent NRC researchers over the next six years to work with mining companies and suppliers on industry priorities.

“A critical feature of this program is the need to drive innovation into supply chains,” said Andy Reynolds, the NRC’s general manager of energy, mining and environment.

“There’s no point in just putting a gadget into a mining process and declaring success. You have to enable somebody to manufacture a product that can be sold.”

The NRC typically puts up a quarter to half of the cost of a project and relies on external co-investment from industry.

“We define the program goals in terms of increasing economically recoverable reserves and reducing the cost of ownership of mining equipment,” said Reynolds. “For every dollar we spend in the program, we have to show a business case. Some work will be exclusively externally funded and some will be exclusively internally funded, depending on where the benefits end up.”

The NRC’s long established Mining Materials Wear and Corrosion Consortium has been folded into the High Efficiency Mining program and will continue to focus on reducing the cost of ownership of mining equipment.

Prior to launching the program, the NRC engaged with industry and worked with the Canadian Mining Innovation Council, which had already identified a set of industry priorities.

The focus will be on four commodities: copper, nickel, gold and oil sands, said Reynolds. “That’s where we think we can have the most impact.”

In addition to working to improve equipment durability, the program will focus on process technologies and optimization, multi-phase chemical processes and separation technologies.

NRC expertise in advanced sensors, as well as in modeling and simulation will also be tapped to improve the control and robustness of systems.

“This is where we think the real opportunities are in mining to deal with the realities of low-grade ore,” said Reynolds. “It’s going to be technology that provides the competitive advantage. Other sectors have seen that (technology) drives complexity and systems thinking, so we’re really structuring around the shift that we think is going to take place over the next one to two decades of systems thinking, systems optimization, a lot more modeling and simulation and a lot more understanding of how novel devices and new technologies are integrated into systems to enable processes to be successful.”

The NRC will work with individual mining companies on R&D projects and assist entrepreneurs to develop their technologies, said Reynolds.

“Fundamentally, what we need to find is things that are valued and deliver them to people who value them.”

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