by Greg Klein | November 2, 2016
Sudbury’s status as a global capital of mining R&D gained additional recognition with a $2.5-million provincial grant. Announced at the Mining Innovation Summit on November 1, the money goes to the non-profit Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation and its Ultra Deep Mining Network.
The UDMN works to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability of operations at depths below 2.5 kilometres. While China has announced support for deep-mining research as part of its Three Deep program, the alarming accident rate at South African mines has been attributed partly to the unprecedented depths of some operations, one breaching the four-kilometre mark.
Ontario hosts two of the world’s 10 deepest mines, according to Mining-Technology.com. Vale’s Creighton nickel-copper mine in Sudbury holds tenth place, at about 2.5 kilometres’ depth. Glencore’s Kidd copper-zinc mine in the Timmins region holds eighth place at slightly more than three kilometres. The other eight mines are all South African gold operations.
Another type of research goes on at Creighton, which hosts the SNOLAB physics experiments including the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory that won Art McDonald a Nobel Prize in 2015.
Why Creighton? As quantum physicist Damian Pope told the National Post, the lab’s two kilometres of rock shields neutrinos from other sub-atomic particles, allowing them to be studied in relative isolation. That research, conducted where the sun don’t shine, somehow helped eggheads understand how the sun shines.
As for mining research, Sudbury hosts nine institutes dedicated to innovation, the province stated. Ontario now has 42 operating mines supporting 26,000 direct jobs and 50,000 additional jobs associated with mining and processing, according to a statement from mines minister Michael Gravelle. He valued Ontario’s 2015 mineral production at $10.8 billion.
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines hosted the two-day Sudbury summit to bring together “government, industry, academia, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, as well as research and innovation organizations” to further encourage mining innovation.