"We need to maintain a measured approach on the new technologies we incorporate given the cost, but will continue to transform our culture and how we perform work."
What are your goals for Cementation Americas in the next two years?
The goal is to become the preferred provider for mining services. As a contractor the resource we supply to our clients is the skills and expertise of our employees. Our people are our number one priority so we ensure they have the necessary resources and are challenged and invest in innovation to differentiate Cementation’s role in the market. A key focus is safety so we work on developing safe operations, particularly in underground mining, which is traditionally labor-intensive and has yet to incorporate many technologies that are common in other industries. We are working on automation which not only has a safety benefit, but also allows us to have a diverse workforce as it increases our options.
How are you navigating the challenges posed by the skill shortages in the labor market?
As we draw from the existing labor pool we are investing in training new employees who have no mining background. We try to rely on equipment and methods that are intuitive and do not require years of experience to operate. For example, some of the drill jumbos we use are automated and only require the click of a button to drill out a blast pattern. If an individual uses an Xbox or Playstation, then they are well on the path to being able to operate much of the equipment we use.
Can you tell us more about the Hatch-CIM Mining & Minerals Project Development Safety award that Cementation and Compass Minerals won?
Compass Minerals and Cementation were awarded for an exceptional safety program at the Goderich shafts relining project in Ontario. The project’s successful completion was facilitated due to the excellent relationship we had with the client who was supportive and did not compromise on safety. Our people dedicated a lot of time planning, so as to ensure safety during the operation. The trust between our workforce and management was a key factor in our success. There is an open constant communication channel between management and employees as they report hazardous situations and near misses to minimize operational risks.
What are some of the milestones at the Alamos Gold’s Young-Davidson operation?
One key accomplishment at Young-Davidson was our innovative solution to sink their shaft. We developed a method that required no one to be inside the shaft for excavation by using a raise bore to excavate the shaft and then install the hoisting plant over the top. There was a raise bore machine pulling up a reamer used for excavation and we relied on directional drilling technology to ensure a straight shaft. We are replicating this model also in projects in the US.
Can you comment on your rate of adoption of mining industry 4.0 technologies and its benefits?
Technology is a means to perform operations safely and efficiently, so we ensure we incorporate automation where it is feasible and accessible. Innovations in cutting the rock and remotely operating vehicles underground are some examples of our adoption. Concerning virtual reality (VR), our engineering and design group is designing 3D models that can be viewed in VR space. This is an example of rapid prototyping where you can see and experience a shaft sinking plant, for example, and identify and eliminate safety issues and interferences before it is built.
Virtually operated machinery is another focus of ours at the moment. For example, we are assessing the use of virtually operated robots that can undertake hazardous tasks. However, we have to have a measured approach on what new technologies we attempt to incorporate because as a mining contractor we must be cost-conscious. Nonetheless, we are investing in transforming our culture and how we perform work. We are fortunate that our culture aligns with that of our progressive clients, which motivates us more to adopt new technologies.
Do you have a final message to our readers on your outlook for the sector?
As the world evolves and technologies are identified that help minimize our impact on the planet, the mining sector is at the helm with providing minerals which make this possible. Cementation will remain dedicated to supporting clients in mine design, construction and early project development and is a partner mining companies can trust to deliver, even during a pandemic.