The mining industry is notoriously slow to adopt new technologies.
Steve Gravel, the new manager of the Centre for Smart Mining (CSM) at Cambrian College in Sudbury, said that this happens for a number of reasons.
"There's a baked-in risk inherent in the commodities market," he said. "The economics are not really in favour of trialing new technologies in a very nimble way because of the capital-intensive nature of doing it."
That's why Gravel hopes that the centre will help to demystify new technologies for mining companies and their employees.
As part of the college's applied research department, the CSM is tied into a larger national network of 30 Technology Access Centres (TAC) across Canada, which help companies access expertise, equipment, funding and provide the facilities to solve innovation challenges.
Cambrian's one of two TAC centres that specialize in mining research. The other one is inTrois-Rivieres, Que.
The applied research projects coming out of the CSM are entirely industry-driven.
For example, technology firms might approach the TAC with the desire to do some proof-of-concept or proof-of-value projects in order to break into the mining sector.
The eventual goal is to commercialize new technologies or to perform specialized testing on already commercialized products.
"Through the acquisition of some really key pieces of technology, we are really looking to be a gateway for trialing new technologies that are not yet in mining," said Gravel.
Some of the projects coming out of the CSM were showcased at Cambrian College's recent Applied Research day event.
A group of students is currentiy working on technology to monitor vehicle safety on mine sites.
In collaboration with Minetell Inc., a risk and performance data company, they have created a sensor that connects to vehicles which automatically generates data about anything from external temperature to vehicle stability.
Using artificial intelligence, the system is built to detect hazards and alert company personnel.
The benefits of this technology are twofold: it can create a safer work environment for employees and avoid damage to company vehicles, which are often a huge investment.
Gravel, who was appointed manager of CSM in July, is no...