Earlier this year, the province of Ontario celebrated an illustrious milestone: the most populated Canadian province became the first jurisdiction in North America to completely eliminate the use of coal for energy production.
The feat, a decade in the making, evidences the province’s commitment to finding and utilizing green energy options. The move also serves as an inspiration to other provinces and countries.
As the government of Ontario website notes, “eliminating coal-fired electricity is the largest climate change initiative in North America.”
In short, Ontarians can breathe a sigh of relief. They can also rest assure that they are inhaling cleaner air, as the move to ban coal as an energy source is equivalent to taking 7 million cars off the road.
Ontario isn’t the only Canadian municipality looking to implement long-term green change. The Canadian government is undertaking a broad initiative to green the country’s mining and resources sector. Established in 2010 and recently modified, the Green Mining Initiative (GMI) seeks to make one of Canada’s most lucrative industries greener and more environmentally friendly.
While GMI aims to make the industry greener as a whole, there are specific programs, like Extraction Innovation, that are looking to merge one of Canada’s oldest industries with cutting-edge technology.
The current Extraction Innovation research activity is made up of two distinct themes: Deep Mining and Emerging Technologies. Deep mining includes examining elements of ground control and analysis of seismic data, as well as heat stress mitigation strategies.
Under the Emerging Technologies theme, several fields of research are being explored and mandated, including explosive free rock breakage, hoisting technology and sludge reclamation and beneficiation.
Mining has been a crucial component to Canada’s overall economic development for more than a century. In 2014, the mining and minerals processing industries contributed more than $57 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product and more than 375,000 jobs for Canadians.
The nation’s prosperity continues to depend in no small part on mining activities, which sustain the economies and the communities of provinces and territories across Canada. This is especially true in rural and remote regions of Canada where the mining sector is the chief employer.
The mining sector also has a large impact in areas that do not host mineral exploration and extraction. According to The Mining Association of Canada’s Facts and Figures, mining also contributes to the economy of Canada’s larger cities: Toronto is a global hub for mining finance; Vancouver is home to the world’s leading cluster of exploration companies; Montreal houses important aluminum and iron-ore companies; and Saskatoon is a global centre for uranium and potash.
This is why it is critical that Canada implements green initiatives in the mining and resource sector to ensure the industry can sustain its current levels and continue to grow.
One of the newest ways to explore for resources involves looking to the treetops to see what may be below the ground.
“It’s well established that coniferous trees such as spruce can pick up metals and other elements from the soil and concentrate them in the bark, twigs, and needles,” said Bruce Madu, Vice President of Minerals and Mining at Geoscience BC. “Through this program, we hope to provide new information that will encourage people to take a fresh look at the area’s mineral potential.”
These new technologies and tools are allowing mineral and resource companies to be more exact when it comes to locating potential resource pockets, which, in turn, is good for their bottom line.
Canadian mining executive Richard Warke sees the merger of technology and the mining sector as a win-win situation for both industries. “Not only does the pairing of these industries create jobs, it also helps mining and extraction companies save money and increase productivity,” said Richard Warke, who is Chairman of the Augusta Group and Chairman of Arizona Mining.
As Richard Warke noted, the advancement of technologies related to the mining and resource sector has enhanced industry productivity, while also reducing the amount of test of drilling and other explorative measures that often cost a lot of money and don’t always yield results.
“Technology is letting us know exactly which minerals and fine metals are present without invasive drilling and testing. The new methods allows for increased efficiency and have helped to facilitate greater mine productivity ,” Richard Warke added.
Mining technology is also helping to prevent accidents and bolster safety by allowing for better monitoring and ground surveillance.
Greening the mining sector will take a concerted effort from governments and companies who commit to extract resources in the safest way possible. Technology is helping pave the way for the mining and resource industry to embrace green practices in long-term meaningful ways. It is also revolutionizing the scope of mining. Now deep sea mining and remote mining are viable options, in part because of the technological advances the mining and resource sector has embraced. Tech is also creating the new frontier in the mining industry, as companies work to develop tools for space mining.
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