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Final preparations underway for Beyond Digital Transformation conference

Conference will show off latest developments in mining and live-streaming will help make the industry more attractive to technology students

With final preparations underway for the annual Beyond Digital Transformation (BDT) conference in Sudbury, organizers held a pre-event launch this week to give a sneak preview and why it will be important for change in the mining industry.

The event takes place at the Cambrian College eDome on February 5-6, 2020, jointly hosted by PACE (Partners in Achieving Change Excellence) and CIM ((Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum). This will be the third year for the conference which brings together mining professionals from throughout Sudbury and across Northern Ontario

As the chair of the event CIM president Roy Slack of Sudbury said the conference is important for raising awareness of new digital technology and innovation in mining, but he said it has to go beyond that.

“This conference is not about innovation. It’s about implementation,” Slack said on Monday.

“It means taking great ideas and turning them into reality and making them happen,” he added.

A brief panel discussion was held for industry professionals to discuss what they like about the conference and what their hopes are for February.

Neil Milner, head of projects with KGHM in Sudbury, said in his career as a professional engineer he has seen many excellent ideas and new technology come to the fore, but things didn’t always work out.

“You know in my experience I watched them fail time and time again. Because for me the real challenge wasn’t having the idea because everyone’s got good ideas. It wasn’t about appliant technology because there’s a lot of different technologies to apply to. It’s about how to change the culture of business where people accept the technology as a value added tool and then turning that into value for the operation,” said Milner.

Patti Pegues, also a mining engineer and Vale’s mine planning manager for North Atlantic operations, said she is looking forward to the conference.

“We are going to focus on implementation, what is working, what are the challenges and what is successful,” said Pegues.

“In coming from operations, we’ve got our head down solving our own problems and it’s nice to take this conscious break and learn what else is going on in the industry,” she added.

Neha Singh, the CEO of PACE, told the group one of the important aspects of the conference is the fact it will be live-streamed on the Orion Network, a dedicated high-speed fibre-optic network that supports research, education and innovation in Ontario. She said this will allow students across Ontario to listen in and learn.

Milner remarked that it was the kind of thing he wished he had access to when he was a student. He recalled that some of the class notes he was provided with were old, even when he was in school, “ and the new technologies that were presented weren’t necessarily new anymore.”

He said being able to listen in on a professional mining technology conference would have been helpful.

“When I transitioned from school into the working environment I saw all manner of new technologies that were starting to be implemented or being entertained to be implemented in the industry and I felt left behind. From a person who enjoys technology it was an uncomfortable place for me,” he said.

Pegues also endorsed the idea of having the conference live-streamed for students if only to help the students get a truer understanding of the industry.

“It’s competitive right now. It’s competitive to get the attention of professionals, even if you’re enrolled in a mining program,” she said.

On the other hand, she noted, the live-streaming might help raise awareness to help attract younger people to the industry who might otherwise regard mining as less than modern.

“Mining can be seen still as tough, rough, dirty and unsafe work,” she said.

She added that the BDT conference can show off some of the more exciting and cutting-edge developments in a way that would make the mining attractive to students.

“Mining is a really exciting place to be and I am not sure how much of that story is out there,” said Pegues.

NOTE: This item was corrected on January 8, 2020 to include the correct dates for the conference, February 5-6, 2020.