Barrick Gold has it in their plans to make its mining operations more automated and ecological.
The strategy to go green and utilize technology is are not a secret, according to Denis Gratton, the company's vice-president of automation, who elaborated on the gold miner's plans at the monthly meeting of the Sudbury Chapter of the Canadian Institute of Mining on April 19.
It includes everything from chemical leaching to autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence in a ground-up approach to change how the company does business.
For starters, he said the company had to look at innovation as a whole, rather than merely changing a few machines or methods of working. To do that, the company established its own innovation team to work on projects in-house and explore third-party partnerships.
"It's not like we hadn't innovated. In the processing of gold, we are proud we have led in that area for many years," Gratton said. "There are places where we had to create a process, because one didn't exist."
They had discussions and invited operators to try and identify where the problems are. They came up with five categories: global ore body intelligence, autonomous and electric mine and what can be automated, predict the precision extraction and new methods to recover gold, symbiotic development and sharing the wealth with host communities and countries, and disruptive technologies and value gold in non-traditional ways.
Gratton explained there are three levels of innovation at the company. The lower is general improvements to the mine operations, or continuous change.
"We have an exceedingly strong program around this, with monthly global meetings with metrics that are compared with all the mines," he said. "All the mines are networked, and they share their findings on a regular basis."
The second is more step change. These include introducing technology that isn't common in the mining industry.
The third area Barrick is looking at is artificial intelligence and learning technologies to adjust for better recoveries in realtime.
Gratton admitted that while it is generating a lot of excitement, they have to manage their expectations and look at it carefully before jumping in.
"We can't push down that spirit of wanting to do better," he said. "The challenge for us is how do we manage those expectations. There's this belief that artificial intelligence will solve all our problems, but what does it really mean?"
The topic that generated a lot of interest...