Ontario Mining is a high tech industry investing heavily in R&D

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Mining in Ontario is a high tech industry where smart people do skilled work and skilled workers do smart jobs. Mining companies in Ontario invested almost $100 million in Research and Development (R&D) in 2011, according to the University of Toronto economic impact study Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario’s Future. This R&D was carried out in the pursuit of new ideas, new discoveries, new products, new processes and improved efficiency.

“On top of the usual type of investment in R&D, the mining industry has its own unique kind of research – mineral exploration,” said the study. In Ontario in 2011, mineral exploration and deposit appraisal investments surpassed $1 billion – the most ever spent in a Canadian jurisdiction in one year. “Ontario maintained its decade-long lead of all Canadian provinces and territories in exploration and deposit appraisal expenditures in 2011, with 26% of Canadian spending in the province.”

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity believes that U.S. patents are a good indicator of the innovative capacity of an industry. Patents are sought first and foremost in the U.S. because the standards of patentability are more stringent. U.S. patent data compiled the University of Toronto shows a steady increase in the number of patents obtained by companies in Ontario’s mineral industry.

In 2010, companies involved in Ontario’s mining industry gained 37 U.S. patents, up from 32 in 2009, 24 in 2008 and 21 in 2007. Companies involved in metal mining gained the bulk of these patents but also “Ontario firms in scientific and technical services, which include land geophysical surveying, assaying laboratories and geological consulting services have averaged two U.S. patents per year over the past five years.”

The mining sector enjoys positive relationships with Canadian universities, which provide both a source of future industry employees and these institutions of higher learning also carry out a great deal of R&D. “In Ontario for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, total investment in R&D on natural sciences (excluding health sciences) and engineering in universities and colleges totaled more than $1.6 billion, roughly the same as the previous year.”

According to the federal government, more than 85% of the mining workforce uses advanced technology, including advanced materials, telecommunications and electronics. As a percentage of total employees, the mineral industry has 50% more personnel with PhDs than the manufacturing sector as a whole. Approximately one in five professionals engaged in R&D in the mining industry has a doctorate degree.

If you work in Ontario’s mining industry you might be more likely to be wearing a lab coat in a research facility, or designing better equipment and processes, or developing computer software than driving a scoop tram underground.

A full version of Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario’s Future, which can be downloaded, can be found on the OMA website www.oma.on.ca. Brain power is major factor in what keeps Ontario’s mining industry dynamic and dependable.