A mining innovation centre, or test lab, sounds like the thing of mining technologists’ dreams, but it is increasingly becoming the norm across the globe. Several nations have now invested in environments for mining students, businesses and entrepreneurs to collaborate and consolidate their ideas ahead of industry roll out.
These facilities have multiple positives for both mining houses and aspiring Mining, Equipment and Technical Services (METS) businesses. This is because they allow research from universities to be explored further and potentially developed into fully working, value adding systems. They can also act as a hub for the mining eco-system to raise its current issues or bottlenecks and allow new ideas to be developed by a “brains trust” of mining academics and manufacturers.
Below I have grouped some of the mining industries finest innovation centres for you to explore:
METS Ignited reach extends across Australia through multiple different mining focused initiatives. They facilitate collaboration and success for the METS industry through multiple different support mechanisms. They run incubator schemes to group small businesses together to improve sharing of ideas in development, manufacturing and implementation. They also run periodic “Masterclass” sessions which offer new perspectives, an aligned strategic direction and practical next steps to address and respond to the changing workforce and increasingly digital nature of the mining industry.
CORE was established in Perth in 2016, with a vision of bringing solutions and opportunities from new technologies, startups and entrepreneurs to the well-established resources industry. With support from several entities from across the mining landscape they are providing an ecosystem for new mining ideas and businesses to thrive. This includes co-working spaces, workshops and startup support facilities.
Working in collaboration with multiple other organisations METS Ignited also helped found the ERDI TestLab 4.0. This is attached to the University of Western Australia (UWA) and has been built to allow the development and manufacturing of mining industry 4.0 applications. This will allow for a focused push toward automation in the mining industry in Perth, Australia. Goldfields and South32 are two of the underground miners based locally who are heavily involved. Recently it has also attracted interest from foreign businesses, including first Canadian involvement from Trevali, who this month announced active involvement at the test lab.
When I speak with Canadians working in mining one city always comes up in conversation, Sudbury! It is home to NORCAT which was founded in 1995 and is the only mining innovation hub with an active underground mine at their disposal! This allows them to offer a real-life testing site for new underground focused ideas and products. Meaning, they are widely recognised as the “complete package” for underground METS start-ups. Businesses can trial products in the harsh underground conditions with relative ease. The NORCAT team also runs a mining incubator, startup support workshop and multiple other services to empower a cutting-edge mining ecosystem.
An interesting video from CEMI discussing the Lean methodology in analysing and adopting new technology & innovation within the mining sector. I like this thought process in breaking down and finding the areas where bottlenecks in a mining schedule or value is lost. Technologies & Innovation can then be harnessed to assist in removing these problems from within an operation.
Just down the road in Sudbury is the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI). Established in 2007, CEMI’s mandate is to accelerate step-change innovation by introducing new practices, procedures, tools, techniques and technologies to help generate a significant improvement in the performance of mines.
It is amazing to see such support for those looking to make positive change in the mining sector in a regional city that is so close to the mining action. I have already spoken with several Canadian businesses and they have all used these support mechanisms to get their product to market.
The UK has had something of a mining revival in the last couple of years, with several underground projects now live including Sirius Minerals Woodsmith potash mine and Compass Minerals Winsford Salt mine. This is something of a renaissance following the mass closure of underground coal mines in the 1980s.
Deep Digital Cornwall will be a $4m investment in new facilities, focused primarily on supporting British small and medium enterprises in their quest to develop new solutions for the underground mining market. These will be added to the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus and will be an extension of the existing Cambourne School of Mines (CSM). It is extremely positive to see this new underground mining ecosystem emerge in the UK, a country not famous in recent years as a mining centre.
Established in 2007, CEMI’s mandate is to accelerate step-change innovation by introducing new practices, procedures, tools, techniques and technologies to help generate a significant improvement in the performance of mines.
Whilst new ideas can be developed and brought to market by individuals, it is fantastic to see underground mining innovation centres emerging across the globe! These centres can help create collaboration and better results for the industry as it transitions to Mining 4.0. Support, investment and guidance is only going to accelerate the businesses of each nation.
These services for METS businesses could also be a great stepping stone for more mature businesses looking to “make the leap” into new markets. With the guidance into different governance, market environments and trends delivered by each mining centre, they could allow for successful expansion to a wider global market.
If you have any information about other global mining innovation centres please get in touch. It would be great to hear of other facilities that are supporting the sector to move forward with ideas and thinking.