Canadian Mining Journal

  • Feature

    Smart technology, underrated humans

    May 8, 2018 by In mid-April, production problems at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., prompted the company to suspend production of its Model 3 electric cars. The several-day suspension, planned to complete “a comprehensive set of upgrades,” comes as the company has struggled to meet production targets. As of last August, there was a backlog of 455,000 preorders for the car – and that’s after 63,000 people cancelled their orders. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has pegged production issues on an overreliance on robots in the factory assembly line. “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated,” Musk tweeted on Apr. 13. In contrast to that technology-first approach, the mining industry is proceeding with caution (too much caution, some say) in its adoption of new technologies. But the sector will have to adopt some Silicon Valley traits – while retaining a respect for the central role of humans – in order to thrive in the new digital era. Some companies are developing coding skills in-house, for example, and creating their own analytics programs to meet specific needs that off-the-shelf solutions can’t (Page 20). “To successfully develop things in-house, the best are adopting agile development methodologies, design thinking, and cutting-edge software development ability,” says Richard Sellschop, a partner with consultants McKinsey & Co. and global leader of its Metals and Mining Digital and Analytics Service Line. It all sounds rather foreign to the business of digging rock out of the ground and processing it into useful materials – pointing to the fact that the challenge is not just about technology. Indeed, while Sellschop says technical challenges are diminishing by the day, change management remains a stubborn issue that’s often underestimated. He says the scarcest skill in the mining industry is something he refers to as translator skills. “There’s plenty of very qualified, very smart data scientists in the world and many more on the way,” he told CMJ in early April. “But finding a data scientist who also understands the metallurgical process and how to drive change in a heavy industry environment with a certain culture and way of work – that is tricky. I think this translation capability will in some way become the unicorn skill of the next decade or two.” Moreover, the industry’s approach to digital technology is not about replacing humans, but increasing efficiency by using more of the data available, as well as taking people out of harm’s way. The end result will allow employees to make better use of their time, says David Willick, vice-president with Schneider Electric and Mining, Minerals and Metals Segment regional leader for North America. “With all of these (expected) efficiencies, it just moves the needle to having people focus on more value-added tasks,” he says. In an era of smart technology, let’s not count humans out.

    Don’t underrate people when automating

  • Feature

    Beyond the Big Nickel

    February 1, 2018 by Alisha Hiyate

    Sudbury’s mining service sector employs 10,000.

  • In 2018, the pressure’s on

    January 1, 2018 by Alisha Hiyate

    Don’t overlook the demands of responsible mine closure

  • Feature

    A tempered celebration of the Top 40

    August 1, 2017 by Alisha Hiyate

    A tempered celebration of the Top 40.

  • Feature

    Keeping moving parts … moving

    October 1, 2016 by Russell Noble

    Mechanically minded is a term that is commonly used to describe someone with an interest in tinkering with mechanical devices. It’s basically an interest in moving parts. But unlike the other minded people in today’s society, namely the closed variety,

  • Feature

    A non-stop pace & place

    September 1, 2016 by Russell Noble

    When MINExpo, that indescribably large mining equipment show in Las Vegas, hits my calendar every four years, I get mixed emotions about attending because I’ve been to the city more than 30 times over my career, and quite honestly, I’m

  • Feature

    Old news is still new to some

    August 1, 2016 by Russell Noble

    The last thing I write before the deadline of every issue is my Editorial. Not because I’m saving my words of observation to the very last minute for research purposes, or anything like that; it’s usually because I often find

  • Feature

    That’s not the way I would have done it

    May 1, 2016 by Russell Noble

    Occasionally I find there are too many topics worthy of discussion here because, as you all know, just about everything that happens in the day-to-day business world has an impact on mining. It doesn’t matter if it’s political, financial, or

  • Feature

    “No work” is the least of our worries

    January 1, 2016 by Russell Noble

    Now that we’re heading into what forecasters say will be another dismal year, it’s hard to get excited about the months ahead knowing we’re going to continue hearing more about layoffs, care and maintenance, and worst of all, outright closures

  • Feature

    A calendar of carnage

    December 1, 2015 by Russell Noble

    Thankfully, and I say that on behalf of just about every mining company still in business, 2015 is over, and another dismal year has come to an end. Mind you, the changing of one numeral from a 5 in 2015