The Biggest Hurdle Mining Companies Face? Implementation, Not Innovation - NORCAT CEO
(Kitco News) - Investors who think that the mining sector is behind the times when it comes to technology and innovation ought to think again, according to one organization that is helping to bring tech to the mining sector.
In a presentation during the CIM Conference 2019, Don Duval, CEO at NORCAT said that the mining sector is not short of ideas or tools when it comes to innovation; however, he added that the issue is adopting the technology and ideas in a working mine.
Don Duval, CEO at NORCAT
“We see an array of emerging technology for the mining sector, but the question is: how do we successfully implement all this innovation?” he said in an interview with Kitco News
There is still much uncertainty around innovation and whether or not technology will solve the problems within the mining sector, said Duval, which makes many mining executives reluctant to bring new equipment and ideas to their projects. He added that executives want to know that when they try something new, it will work right away.
“Mining companies are under unprecedented pressure to perform to drive shareholder value. There is enough risk already in the mining sector,” he said. “What we are hearing from the miners is that they want to de-risk new technology as much as possible. There are not many mining companies out there that would install something that is not proven.”
Duval said that if mining companies are going to embrace new technology, they want to “see it, feel it and hear it,” within a real-life working environment. He added that this is the niche NORCAT is trying to fill.
The not-for-profit company is the only innovation center in the world with an operating underground mine, allowing companies to test their products in a real environment. One piece of technology being tested in the mine is tele-remote/autonomous vehicles and equipment, being developed by Hard-Line Solutions.
“While it is a fully operational mine, it is more like a lab with all the technology we have underground,” he said. “Our underground mine fosters a mining tech ecosystem like no other in the world.”
NORCAT's underground mine currently supports about 50 different projects.
However, embracing innovation is more than just making sure that the technology works. Duval said that before implementing innovative tools, companies need to make sure that they have the right infrastructure in place to make sure the implantation is a success.
Duval said that mining companies need to develop a clear vision and roadmap to make sure their employees have the competence and confidence to work with the equipment efficiently.
Although there are implementation hurdles mining companies face when it comes to innovation and technology, Duval said that he is confident that the sector is heading in the right direction.
For the future, he said that they see a lot of new tech around underground sensors, the development of electric, autonomous vehicles and even wearable tech.
“It’s an exciting time for the sector. Mining is going through a tech resonance unlike any other period in history,” he said.