Four Laurentian University Groups Create Mining Research Expertise in Sudbury – by Janet Gibson

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of permission to post Janet Gibson’s article.


Four groups have joined forces to form a world-class mining research centre on the fourth floor of the Willet Green Miller Centre at Laurentian University.

Late last month, staff from CEMI, MASHA, CAMIRO and MIRARCO explained their acronyms and described their projects to more than 100 invited guests from the university, mining companies, city and provincial government.

“Our biggest challenge is to make this work for those who invest,” said the CEO of CEMI, Dr. Peter Kaiser, noting his organization has received $50 million in the last five years, half of which is being devoted to problems associated with deep mining.

Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI):

Some projects Kaiser and his staff are working on this year are mining footwall and offset deposits, reducing the risks of deep mining and restoring peatlands and uplands in the Hudson Bay lowlands.

Ore is found in three places in the Sudbury basin, said research and development director Damien Duff — the contact areas at the perimeter of the basin, the footwall or floor of the basin and the offset dykes. Footwall and offset deposits are “veritable jewelry shops,” he explained.

More and more mining is being done at extreme depths, Duff said — depths equivalent to five times the height of the CN Tower. The deep mines have unique problems in the areas of safety, ventilation and digging tunnels.

The Hudson Bay lowlands is home to Ontario’s first diamond mine. Researchers are looking at ways of making fertile soil from mining waste and using native plants to restore the land.

CEMI researcher Greg Baiden is the Canadian research chair in robotics and automation. He demonstrated his research on smart rocks by playing a clip from the movie Twister.

“This is what (mining company) Rio Tinto wants to do,” he said. Just as the glass balls in the movie gathered data about tornadoes, synthetic rocks will track the inside of the ore body. “We’ve tested it in the lab and the tests were successful,” he added. “It’s quite a breakthrough.”

Applications of the research include locating trapped miners with an underground GPS system.

Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association (MASHA):

MASHA’s vision is an industry where injuries are a thing of the past, said Ontario mine rescue manager Alex Gryska. Although mining is still considered one of the most hazardous industries in the world, it’s actually safer than forestry and construction, he said. MASHA is researching protocols for re-entry after rock bursts, visibility for operators of giant pieces of equipment and protocols for handling wheels and rims safely.

Canadian Mining Research Organization (CAMIRO):

Two things CAMIRO is working on developing cosmic ray sensors to detect small ore bodies and designing hats and boots that can protect miners in a rockburst, said Tom Lane, director of research in the exploration division.

Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research (MIRARCO):

The CEO of MIRARCO, Dr. Steve Hall, said the “clever young people” he works with would help the group become the “partner of choice in delivering quality research and innovative solutions to the global mining industry.”

MIRARCO’s core research areas are geohazards, virtual reality and environment and sustainability. The Northern Advanced Visualization Network uses the technology and know-how demonstrated in Laurentian University’s virtual reality laboratory to help companies make critical decisions that depend on complex spatial information.

“Mining is not a 3D problem,” said MIRARCO vice-president Andrew Dasys. “It’s a 4-D or 5-D problem.”