2 Australian mines are now operating with an all-driverless fleet of trucks – by Matthew Yglesias (Vox Business and Finance – October 19, 2015)


The first big commercial deployment of driverless car technology is coming not in the streets of Silicon Valley but in the arid and sparsely populated Pilbara region of Australia. That’s where the large mining conglomerate Rio Tinto has rolled out fleets of all-driverless trucks at two iron ore mines, according to a report by Jamie Smyth at the Financial Times.

Rio Tinto tells Smyth that the driverless transition has improved performance by 12 percent, mainly by “eliminating required breaks, absenteeism and shift changes.”

GPS guides the trucks and allows them to deliver iron ore 24/7, 365 days a year, without the kinds of breaks and handover periods that human drivers would need. The GPS navigation system is backstopped by a team of human operators working remotely from Perth, hundreds of miles away.

Not only does this reduce the total number of humans who are needed to run the trucking operation, but it eliminates the need to employ those humans in the remote and desolate mining country.

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Why Canada needs entrepreneurial clusters, and how to go about making them – by Rick Spence (National Post – September 14, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Imagine you have an idea for a zillion-dollar business, but you need partners, skilled employees, industry contacts — and patient capital to build it.

In a perfect world, you could source all that with a few local calls. In this world, it happens in just a few places: Silicon Valley, New York City, London, and maybe Beijing and Tel Aviv. When the mix of entrepreneurial activity, knowledge, mentoring and funding reaches critical mass, help finds you.

Can Canadians build their own entrepreneurial clusters? That question is being explored this week in Waterloo, Ont., site of a three-day conference focusing on creating more innovation ecosystems. Waterloo Region, an hour’s drive west of Toronto, comes closest to the ideal in Canada.

Sparked by the University of Waterloo’s founding principles of industry placements and giving researchers ownership of their discoveries, the region has become home to 1,000 tech companies, as well as leading-edge science, think-tanks, and renovated co-working spaces where technology veterans and Google employees rub shoulders with ambitious startups and starry-eyed students.

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Secret Rocks: The $10 billion jewels industry is shrouded in beauty—and mystery. Is change about to come? – by Shibani Mahtani and Patrick Barta (Wall Street Journal – May 17, 2013)


TO HEAR RICHARD HUGHES tell it, the journey was like something straight out of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” One of the world’s leading modern-day gem hunters, he was hell-bent on reaching the fabled jade mines of upper Myanmar—a jungle redoubt so remote and closely guarded that few living Westerners have ever laid eyes on it.

Before he could get close, he had to spend months ahead of his trip convincing Myanmar’s secretive military, which controlled access to the country’s mines, to let him in. Then he had to navigate some of the most punishing, malaria-ridden terrain east of the Congo, capped by a grueling climb along a dirt road his handlers said would only take seven hours to ascend.

The trail quickly turned into a river of sludge under Myanmar’s brutal monsoons, trapping vehicles in mud to their doors until teams of elephants showed up to haul them out.

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Sudbury needs premier needs to act boldly [turn Laurentian in global Harvard of hardrock mining] – by Stan Sudol (Sudbury Star – February 9, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Note: this is the second of two parts.

Sudbury: Paris of the Mining World

While I can’t remember who coined the phrase, “Sudbury, the Paris of the Mining World” – I wish I had been that clever – there is an amazing amount of truth to the statement. Obviously, in no uncertain terms, does any part of Sudbury remind anyone – even in a drugged or drunken state – of Paris.

However, my lake-filled, mid-sized hometown does have a wide variety of retail, tourist, educational and other amenities that most tiny isolated mining towns do not and it is located only 400 km north of Canada’s largest city, Toronto.

A few years ago, a colleague who moved from Red Lake to Sudbury almost considered herself in “mining heaven” with the abundance of amenities not found in that tiny gold mining centre.

In addition to the Ontario government’s new differentiation and international student outreach policies, there are many other reasons why all post-secondary mining programs should be relocated to Sudbury’s Laurentian University.

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Boldly Building a Silicon Valley in Canada… for Mining – by Joe Lee (Tech Vibes.com – December 1, 2014)


Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal, and Vancouver are all recognized tech clusters in Canada. But the story around a new hub in Sudbury, Ontario can be traced back to a round of golf between Kirk Petroski, the CEO of Symboticware, and Dick DeStefano, the Executive Director of SAMSSA (Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association), where Petroski urged DeStefano to speak to MaRS about mining innovation.

As some VCs and consultants have argued, building the next Silicon Valley means a community should not try to replicate the Valley, but that the community should work towards differentiation and being the best in a specific domain. By all accounts, Greater Sudbury, home to approximately 160,000 and a major producer of nickel, is on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of underground mining technology.

While the formation of the cluster may be an anomaly, the growth trajectory and development direction are not. These two points became abundantly clear when DeStefano, a self-professed disciple of Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter’s theories, shared his vision of turning Sudbury into an underground mining ecosystem and his journey as one of the pioneers.

Builders, Leaders and Feeders

“In 2001, I took myself out of retirement, researched the Sudbury community, and looked at companies. I tracked them down and invited them to get together. Only six people showed up to first meeting,” DeStefano recounts the early days of his mission to focus Sudbury’s talent and energy in mining supply and technology.

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Labour strife, safety concerns spur platinum mining mechanisation – by Ed Stoddard (Business Day Live – October 15, 2014)


Reuters – FOR decades, production in SA’s platinum mines has rested on the muscular shoulders of men risking life and limb to drill into the rock face with jackhammers.

Three years of labour upheaval and a political push to make the shafts safer and transform the low-wage workforce have set in motion a drive to replace such rock drillers with machines.

“Labour militancy is dictating our push to mechanisation and boardrooms will rubber stamp this stuff,” said Peter Major, a fund manager at Cadiz Corporate Solutions. The costly change is happening despite the obstacles thrown by geology, low platinum prices and capital constraints.

At Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats’s) Bathopele mine near Rustenburg, west of Johannesburg, technology has already made rock drillers obsolete and hydraulic machines do the job, blazing an automated trail others are keen to follow.

Elsewhere in the platinum shafts, plans are afoot to roll out mechanisation, including at Amplats’s rival Impala Platinum, which recently sent a team to Bathopele to observe the layout — an unprecedented example of co-operation in an industry that has long been fiercely competitive and secretive.

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In focus: Pascua Lama remains in legal limbo – by Fermín Koop (Buenos Aires Herald – August 18, 2014)


Barrick says project has slowed due to the company’s debts, lower gold prices

With more than US$5 million spent so far in what has long been described as one of the first bi-national mining projects in the world, Barrick Gold continues with its foot firmly on the brakes in Pascua Lama hoping to resolve its legal limbo in Chile as soon as possible while it seeks out new investors to join the project.

Even as Barrick likes to tout the potential benefit of the project for both Chile and Argentina, environmental groups continue to call for the cancellation of the mine’s environmental permits due to the potential risks the project could have on the area’s rivers and glaciers, which they say have already been affected.

“The project has not been abandoned, we temporarily decreased the pace of construction. It was impossible to keep working at a quick pace considering the company registered a US$10.37 billion loss last year and the price of gold dropped a lot,” a Barrick official in Buenos Aires told the Herald. “Plus, the legal issues in Chile led to the suspension of the construction there.”

Located in the Andes Mountains on the border between Argentina and Chile, Pascua Lama is an open pit mining project of gold, silver, copper and other minerals. It contains estimated deposits of 18 million ounces of gold and 676 million ounces of silver, with 75 percent of the deposits in Chile and 25 percent in Argentina.

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Creating growth clusters: What role for local government? – by Julian Kirchherr, Gundbert Scherf, and Katrin Suder (McKinsey.com – July 2014)


A systematic approach to implementation could help start-up ecosystems flourish.

Many governments in industrialized countries aim to encourage entrepreneurship and start-up activity to spur job creation and economic growth. To what extent governments are capable of doing so is uncertain. Nonetheless, policy makers at the regional and municipal levels are closer to the sources of innovation than those at the national level. For example, innovation in the form of start-up activity tends to occur in large metropolitan areas, initially without the involvement of policy makers. Take Berlin, where a vibrant ecosystem developed in the past several years without systematic government intervention.

While an enabling policy context might not be a precondition for seeding entrepreneurial activity, it may become more critical when taking a cluster to scale. To flourish, entrepreneurial activity requires a concentration of talent, infrastructure, capital, and networks—key success factors of a start-up ecosystem, as epitomized by Silicon Valley. Not all economic-policy instruments aimed at nurturing start-ups are at the city level. Still, local policy makers should think systematically about what it takes to support a start-up ecosystem. When doing so, their focus could be on tackling the bottlenecks and constraints that might otherwise inhibit a vibrant start-up ecosystem rather than picking winners by supporting investment in particular sectors or business models.

More specifically, such local initiatives can help link entrepreneurs to schools and universities, ease administrative matters for foreign workers and founders wishing to settle in a location, support development of suitable infrastructure and connectivity, and communicate and market the attractiveness of a location vis-à-vis other start-up centers. New York, for example, founded a tech campus for applied sciences; Tel Aviv built working spaces for entrepreneurs; Berlin is in the process of setting up a privately managed fund to raise capital for start-ups.

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Copper price soars on Chile – by Dow Jones Newswires (The Australian – April 3, 2014)


Copper prices soared before paring early gains to end only slightly higher Wednesday on news of a powerful earthquake off the coast of Chile, as most mining operations appeared to be unaffected.

Copper prices had a roller-coaster reaction to the news over the course of the global day. The 8.2-magnitude quake near Chile, the world’s largest producer of the metal, initially pushed up the three-month copper contract on the London Metal Exchange by more than 1 per cent to $6,728.75 a metric tonne.

The price quickly reversed before spiking again later in the day, as US traders began work, to $US6,734 a tonne, the highest since March 10. LME three-month copper closed the day at $6,680 a tonne, up 0.3 per cent from the previous day’s closing price.

In the US, the most actively traded contract, copper for May delivery, rose as high as $3.0740 a pound before closing up 1.1 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at $3.0455 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Aluminium prices tracked copper, rising 1.5 per cent on the day to $1,823 a tonne.

“Concerns about China’s economic outlook overwhelmed short-lived fears of supply disruptions following the earthquake,” said analysts at RBC Capital Markets in a note to clients.

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Japan’s nickel smelters to be hit hard by Indonesia export ban (Reuters U.S. – November 21, 2013)


TOKYO – Nov 21 (Reuters) – Japanese nickel smelters will be severely impacted by Indonesian bans on exports of unprocessed mineral ores due in January as Japan imports 43 percent of ferro-nickel materials from Indonesia, the head of mining industry body said on Thursday.

With a current account deficit at a near-record high, the Indonesian government is scrambling to ease nationalistic resource rules that were passed more than a year ago, including a ban on mineral ore exports from January 2014.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is the world’s top exporter of nickel ore, thermal coal and refined tin, and home to the world second-biggest copper mine.

“So far, Indonesia has not come up with any specific actions to ease its new mining law. We are worried about it,” Hiroshi Yao, Chairman of Japan Mining Industry Association (JMIA), told a news conference. “If Indonesia’s export restrictions of unprocessed mineral ore go into effect next year, an impact on Japanese nickel smelters will be big,” he said.

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Clusters, right to work and Ontario’s ‘prosperity gap’ – by Konrad Yakabuski (Globe and Mail – May 2, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Last year was the 10th in a row that Ontario’s economy grew more slowly than the national average.

The cumulative effect of this underperformance is a doubling in provincial debt and an intractable deficit that the government will promise unconvincingly to subdue in Thursday’s budget. Long the province that punched above its weight, Ontario is fast becoming a bigger Quebec, faced with managing its relative decline.

You wouldn’t know it by Toronto’s skyline, where new hotel towers bearing the Trump, Shangri-La and Ritz banners signal the city’s membership in an elite network of global cities where big deals and decisions get made. As such, Ontario is also a lot like California, where pockets of extreme wealth and economic dynamism co-exist among low-income immigrant communities and rusted-out manufacturing towns that have made both places studies in contrast.

Maintaining public services (improving them might be asking for too much at this point) will challenge Ontario’s leaders as never before. If the province is serious about taming the deficit, every program, including health care and education, must be subject to spending constraints and/or tax increases for which Ontarians remain unprepared. But with long-term prospects for economic growth of less than 2 per cent a year, what choices does any government have?

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Accent: City builds rep as mining [research] hub – by Jonathan Migneault (Sudbury Star – February 23, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A giant 3D television displayed two separate animations of coloured rectangle s that appeared at seemingly random areas on the screen. The coloured rectangles — and they covered the entire spectrum of a rainbow — represented different mine areas, and appeared on screen in the order they should be developed.

The animation was a visual representation of mine scheduling and showcased the differences between a schedule that was put together manually, and another that was created by an algorithm developed at Laurentian University.

Scheduling ore extraction at a mine may seem like a mundane task at first, but tweaking the extraction order for peak mine performance can increase the net value of a mining operation by up to 20%.

Researchers at Laurentian’s Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO) developed a software solution called the schedule optimization tool, or SOT for short.

The technology helps mining companies save time and money before they start digging for minerals, and has been used by a number of companies, including Vale and Xstrata.

Lorrie Fava, MIRARCO’s program manager of ventilation and production optimization, said the program cuts down greatly on the amount of time companies need to dedicate to scheduling a new mine site.

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School of Mines adds value to mining cluster – by Dick Destefano (Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal – November 2012)

Dick DeStefano is the Executive Director of Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA).destefan@isys.ca This column was originally published in the November 2012 issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal.

October 15, 2012 was a special day for Northern Ontario and mining. On this day, Ned Goodman, CEO of Dundee Corporation, and the Goodman Family Foundation announced an historic gift to Laurentian University’s new School of Mines.

Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux also announced that the university will name the school in honour of the Goodman family. This announcement stems from early meetings I had on behalf of SAMSSA with president Giroux in the first weeks of his appointment about three years ago.

I suggested that one of the missing components of the Northern Ontario mining cluster was a comprehensive academic centre that would add value to mining and supply and service companies regionally and gradually become a global centre of all things mining.

Many internal meetings at Laurentian and public consultations with the industry led to the October 15th announcement.

I agree with Ned Goodman’s comment at the announcement when he stated, “Greater Sudbury has the best orebody and largest concentration of expertise in mining supply, products and services in the world. We want to be associated with Laurentian University because it’s undoubtedly the go-to for university for mineral exploration and mining in Canada.”

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All’s not lost, Ontario. The future is green, not black – by Thomas Homer-Dixon (Globe and Mail – April 7, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Thomas Homer-Dixon is director of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation and CIGI Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ont.

Ontario, we’re told, is Canada’s new rust belt. The high dollar is pummelling the province’s exports. Big manufacturers are fleeing. The Liberal government is slashing spending to maintain the province’s credit rating. And to top it off, it’s wasting money promoting green energy. There’s just one problem with this pop wisdom: It’s largely nonsense.

Ontario certainly faces huge challenges. Its main trading partner – the United States – is only now emerging from the economic doldrums that followed the 2008-09 financial crisis. And since that crisis, the world economy has been struggling with depressed consumer demand, wary investors and aggressive deleveraging by households, businesses and governments.

Ontario wasn’t ready for this new reality. From the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, a weak loonie made Ontario’s products artificially competitive outside Canada, so companies deferred investment in new factories and technologies.

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Outlook 2012: Exciting times for mining – CEMI: 10 questions for Douglas Morrison, president of the Centre for Excellence in Mining

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Q: What exactly is CEMI?

A: The Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation is a not for profit organization of about 10 people that was established to help bring innovation in the areas of exploration, deep mining, integrated mine engineering, environment and sustainability to the mining industry of Northern Ontario by directing industry funding to universities and colleges, existing research groups, and the supply and services sector.

It is widely recognized that the era of cost-cutting to survive low commodity prices is gone and the present challenge is to meet the continuing demand of the global economy for metals given the demographics of the industry.
Companies such as Xstrata Nickel, Vale, and Rio Tinto fully recognize that this can be accomplished only by implementing new ideas that will redefine how the mining industry of the future will operate.

Q: What is its mandate?

A: Well, it is the centre for excellence because the mandate is to deliver solutions that can be implemented in the fields of mining operations, exploration, and sustainability. Most metal mines in Canada are underground mines that are getting deeper and hotter, and this presents huge challenges.

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