"NORCAT is the only innovation centre in the world that has an operating mine designed to enable start-ups, SMEs, and international companies to develop, test and demonstrate emerging technologies."

Don Duval

CEO, NORCAT

April 20, 2024

Can you share recent highlights related to NORCAT’s priority to be the global leader in skilled labor training and development?

In 2023, NORCAT continued to make substantial and focused investments to deliver on our strategic priorities. Firstly, our ongoing development and deployment of our VR and AR-integrated training solutions has been well received by the Canadian mining industry with a noteworthy uptick in the adoption rate of these blended learning technologies over the past year. A proud moment came our way in 2023 when one of our flagship VR programs was recognized as the Education and Training Solution of the Year by the Academy of International Extended Reality – putting NORCAT amongst the best VR/AR training and development providers in the world.

Secondly, the ongoing labor market pressure in the global mining industry has continued to reinforce the importance of investing in supervisor and manager training and development. As a result of this unprecedented battle for mining talent, we have seen operators heavily invest in supervisor and manager training – not only to enhance operational productivity and safety but also as a competitive differentiator to attract and retain talent. As a result, our market leading supervisor training programs are experiencing the strongest growth and utilization in the last five years.

Lastly, we have continued to see unprecedented demand for both our Underground Hardrock Common Core program and our bespoke content and curriculum development for mining operators and educational partners around the world. Given the ongoing adoption and deployment of new technologies, mining operators are earnestly looking to provide refreshed training programs that reflect current operations and align with the implemented technology solutions.

How has NORCAT reinforced its global brand as the one-stop shop for all that is the future of mining technology and innovation?

NORCAT is the only innovation centre in the world that has an operating mine designed to enable start-ups, SMEs, and international companies to develop, test, and demonstrate emerging technologies that are poised to transform the global mining industry. Using our “active laboratory”, we help to connect and broker relationships between mining technology companies and global mining companies, creating an ecosystem like no other in the world. 2023 was an unprecedented year as we hosted over 50 mining operators and supported close to 40 technology ventures from around the world using the mine to expedite their product development pathways with the ultimate goal of commercial growth.

What are some budding mining technologies that you find promising?

First, ore characterization technologies continue to gain momentum in the marketplace. These technologies involve sophisticated hardware and software components that provide near real-time insights that enhance a variety of activities from exploration and extraction to downstream processing and tailings management.

Second, while industrial fleet electrification is a well-discussed trend, the lesser-explored aspect of battery chemistry is emerging to be a hot topic in the electrification realm. The industry is witnessing debates and investments in various battery chemistries beyond the commonly used lithium, such as sodium-based batteries. Furthermore, chemists at MIT have developed a battery cathode based on organic materials, which could reduce the EV industry’s reliance on scarce metals entirely. The technology roadmap for battery chemistry remains a dynamic and evolving landscape.

Next, the increasing adoption of tele-remote or autonomous mobile equipment control systems continues to not only improve productivity but also improve the health and safety of the workforce. As mines become deeper and more complex, companies like Hard-Line, TesMan, and Hexagon are actively involved in developing and deploying such systems.

Last, underpinning many of the aforementioned technologies is the continued investment by mining operators to better understand opportunities to leverage, utilize, and monetize their data. Rooted in AI, machine learning, and correlation analysis, data has become a significant asset for operations. Companies that learn how to effectively extract meaningful insights from their data to inform real-time and better decision-making will win.

What are NORCAT's plans for 2024?

NORCAT’s forthcoming Mining Transformed technology exhibition at the Underground Centre in May 2024 will once again serve as a venue to showcase emerging technologies poised to transform the industry. Following its success in 2022, we are curating live demonstrations from 50 emerging tech companies to an audience of about 250 mining industry executives invited to “see and touch” innovations that may align with their technology roadmaps.

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