Canadian Mining Journal

Feature

Planning for a better, post-Covid future

Adaptations from the pandemic are here to stay.



At press time in November, there have been several positive announcements from companies working on a vaccine for Covid-19. In fact, the two leading vaccine candidates have reported that they are over 90% effective – a much better result than most experts were anticipating.

There are logistical challenges. In addition to manufacturing and distributing the vaccines to the global population at large, one of the vaccines must be stored at -70° Celsius (Pfizer and BioNTech’s offering) while the other must be kept at a less extreme -20° Celsius (Moderna). The leading contenders will also require two doses per person to be effective.

There are also other challenges, including the possibility that many people could refuse to get innoculated – either due to concerns about taking a new vaccine without a long history of being used safely, or due to the sway of the anti-vaxx movement.

Assuming those difficulties are overcome, we are still looking at a difficult winter ahead (and subdued holiday celebrations) as cases rise. However, for the first time since the lockdowns began in March, there is hope that there is an end in sight to the pandemic. We can imagine a future where in-person interaction doesn’t provoke anxiety and where the precautions of masking, staying physically apart, and choosing a well-ventilated or outdoor space to meet in are no longer as necessary.

That doesn’t mean that life or business will go back to the way they were pre-Covid-19. Nor should they.

Even if the virus were to magically disappear, there are some innovations and adaptations from the pandemic that are here to stay, that have enhanced efficiency, and sparked new ideas and better ways of working.

While the pandemic has highlighted the opportunities of digital technologies in every sector, the adoption of these technologies in the mining sector has been selective. Miners have naturally focused on more immediate concerns during this period of disruption rather than taking a fulsome look at wholesale transformation. But the transformation, which began well before the pandemic, is coming – and it will informed by learnings from the pandemic.

With companies finding that adaptations enabled by digitalization and intended for the short-term, such as remote work of personnel (including supervisors) have worked well, their vision of what’s possible has been broadened.

That’s the bit that’s really important as we envision the future of the industry.

Take cloud technologies, for example – powerful technology that miners are still in the process of adopting (see page 24). In a thought-leadership panel on cloud technology at The Northern Miner’s Global Mining Symposium in November, David Lindon, general manager of OpsGuru Canada, described it as having “the power of 25,000 or 30,000 engineers building technologies for you to build upon,” and a technology that requires “a complete mindshift change” and a “cultural evolution.”

Thanks to the current crisis, miners, who have always taken a cautious approach to new technology in the past, now have a better sense than ever of the value of digitalization – and arguably, are already primed for the mindset change that will secure their future long after Covid-19.


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