Technology Centre: The Heart of Innovation
The Noranda Technology Centre, in Pointe Clare, Que., is at the heart of Noranda’s company-wide push for innovation. The staff of 200 tackles everything from A to Z – aluminum to zinc – with points in between for copper, lead, magnesium, nickel and silver, not to mention mining, milling, smelting and refining. To review all of NTC’s current focus areas would be a massive task, but here are a few.
First, it can be the creation of new recovery processes, such as that for magnesium; or it can be the improvement of existing technologies in close collaboration with the operations, such as the silver electrorefining process at CCR or sulphur capture at the Horne smelter.
Second, and equally important, it can create new technology for customers to make better use of Noranda’s metals.
Take for example the Zinc Division. Work is underway at NTC labs to create zinc powders for the battery industry. One lab has a commercial-sized testing facility, which is used to improve Noranda’s market position in this highly competitive sector. Another lab is home to a unique machine that can simulate the galvanizing lines of all major clients. Keep in mind that the largest use of zinc metal is for anticorrosion coatings. The key point is to ensure that a zinc or zinc-alloy coating adheres to steel sheet during stamping. Noranda engineers are among the leaders in such technology.
NTC continuously works on projects for the mining sector. It developed a new rockbolt, one that will react to the high stress of ground movements by stretching rather than breaking. Automated underground haulage trucks that improve safety and efficiency from the ore pass to the crusher, developed at NTC, are being tested at the Brunswick mine. The handling characteristics and integrity of paste fill is better, thanks to NTC efforts. A cavity monitoring system that improves dilution control is commercially available.
The NTC is also home to Noranda’s national data centre. The goals are twofold. Rationalization and improved customer service is one. Several of the Noranda sites operate from this centre, and plans are being developed to include others. The facility is state-of-the-art, with redundant air conditioning and electric power systems, plus an inert-gas fire suppression system. A high-speed fibre optic network leased from Bell Nexxia makes light-speed communication possible in this virtual network.
With the goal of providing a high level of information service to all operating sites, help desk analysts are available from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Montreal time) to solve problems for computer users. There are more than 50 bilingual specialists gathered in Pointe Claire from across the country providing support to Canadian operations. Both operating and administrative departments, such as human resources, take advantage of their expertise.