This Is Key To Mining's Survival - Goldcorp
(Kitco News) - Major gold producers need to take a leadership role and embrace innovation to ‘shift the tides’ in a sector that has been reluctant to embrace new technology, according to one mining executive.
Luis Canepari, vice-president of technology at Goldcorp (NYSE: GG, TSX: G, said in an interview with Kitco News that major producers are in a unique position to develop technologies and demonstrate how the sector can grow and benefit from innovation.
Canepari said that innovation is going to be key to a company’s survival in the future. To attract investor capital to the sector, he said that companies have to show how they are becoming more efficient, lowering costs, and reducing their environmental footprint.
“Very soon, you can expect that all mining companies will show investors how they are using technology to give them an edge over the competition,” he said. “If you want to be relevant in 10 years, you have to embrace innovation,” he said.
Goldcorp is already seeing the benefits of the digital world, working closely with IBM Watson, the tech giant’s cognitive computing system. Canepari explained that Goldcorp has been working with Watson in a pilot project since the start of the year. In the first phase, Goldcorp used cognitive computing to correlate data from its Red Lake project.
“Our geologist do lots of manual analysis and now with the Watson they can run queries 90% faster than before,” he said. “Our geologists in Red Lake are really pleased with the results they have seen.”
With the success of the first phase of its pilot project, Goldcorp is now planning to use Watson to actually find potential drill targets.
“We think that by the third quarter of next year we will have drill targets from Watson that we can compared to what our exploration team comes up with,” he said. “We will see who comes up with the best targets.”
Along with using artificial intelligence to find new deposits, Canepari said that Goldcorp has implemented a connected-mine program, installing sensors within its mines to collect real-time data to actively manage daily production. He added that the company is also planning to install several autonomous drills in its underground and open pit projects next year.
Goldcorp is also the driving force behind a unique event at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada: #DisruptMining. The event showcases innovative ideas and new technologies that can be incorporated in the mining sector.
“We need to open up a forum that highlights the incubators in this sector, the university professors, the small cap companies and entrepreneurs who have great transformative ideas,” he said. “We need to give these people the opportunity to present their ideas and back those ideas with capital.”
Canepari, said that the innovation initiative is working. Goldcorp has invested in pilot projects and new technologies and some of Goldcorp’s peers have also engaged with some of the companies that have presented their ideas in past competitions.
While Goldcorp is becoming a tech leader in the mining space, Canepari acknowledged that there are still major hurdles for some of this technology to become mainstream.
He noted that one major hurdle is the time it takes to get a mine up and running. He explained that from discovery to construction, it can take up to 10 or even 15 years before a mine starts producing.
However, he added that as companies like Goldcorp develop technologies, he would expect costs to come down, making it a lot easier and cheaper for smaller mines to modernize.
“As the cost of technology comes down, you are going to see more companies embrace innovation,” he said. “The Tide is already starting to shift.”