International Minerals Innovation Institute

How the Mineral Industry is Changing in 2023

When you think of the minerals industry, what do you see? Is it dark, dull, earthen? Well, we’re here to assure you that this is a misrepresentation of the amazing things happening in the industry today. We see a present and future filled with innovation, technology, safety, efficiency, and a stellar workforce. 

This isn’t just wishful thinking! Big minerals companies such as BHP, Cameco, Nutrien and Mosaic are making this vision a reality in 2023. Let’s dive into some of the innovations, projects, and programs that are changing the face of the minerals industry today. 

BHP’s Remote Operations

Remote mining operations may sound like a dream for the future, but BHP has been making it happen for a decade now! Their Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC), located in Perth, Australia, has been running with great success since the end of 2022. 

The Perth facility is an iron ore mine, and the IROC manages all logistics and processes from BHP’s St Georges Terrace office. This includes connecting the four processing hubs and five mining hubs with over 1000 kilometers of port and rail facilities.  

This IROC system runs 24 hours every day of the year, and gets the job done efficiently, safely, and quickly. It’s also opened up technological advancements, career opportunities, and diversity in the workforce—almost 50% of the workforce is female, and 12% identify as Indigenous! 

Due to the success of this IROC project in Australia, BHP intends to implement the technology into their new Jansen potash mine and mill complex. This mine is currently under construction, and their plan is to have a remote operations centre located in Saskatoon. This Saskatoon remote operations centre will open up similar opportunities right here in Saskatchewan! 

Nutrien’s BeltVision

No technological breakthrough is too small, especially when it comes to improving safety and efficiency in a highly complex industry. 

Nutrien teams developed AI technology—BeltVision—that monitors splices and issues in the kilometers of belts that drive their Rocanville Potash operation (the biggest Potash mine in the world). The technology was developed using a combination of preexisting equipment and customized AI technology. 

BeltVision cuts down on monitoring, maintenance and repair downtime, and mitigates concerns of a failure. Now, operations can run smoothly, and operators can proceed with the peace of mind that comes from a job well done. 

Nutrien’s Tele-Remote Technology 

Nutrien has made another technology innovation of note very recently. In response to occupational safety risks, the potash industry has been working hard to develop remote technology that will keep workers safe while operations continue.

With the collaboration of six Nutrien potash mine teams, remote technology has now been successfully implemented at the Nutrien Lanigan Potash mine site. With this technology, an entire production wing can be run remotely. 

This technology is a huge step forward for the minerals industry! It improves efficiency and productivity, as operations no longer have to halt for shift changes and breaks. And, most importantly, it’s keeping Nutrien’s teams safer than ever before. 

Cameco’s Digital Workplace Transformation 

The Digital Workplace Transformation project came about in response to COVID-19. When workers were suddenly asked to go remote in March 2020, Cameco decided to create a system that would allow them to thrive working remotely. 

Cameco teams developed The Cameco Power Bar using WBM Technologies’ Enablement Framework. The Power Bar offers many services and features for Cameco’s employees, including: 

  • Global access to live support chats and videos
  • Collaboration and productivity tools
  • On-demand learning
  • Workshops 

With these new systems in place, Cameco employees have everything they need to transform how they work and grow their technology skills. The Power Bar solution is highly regarded by Cameco personnel, with 100% saying they’d like to see this support method continue in the future. 

The Digital Transformation in Potash Mining Program 

Diversity in the minerals industry workforce has historically been lacking, but the Morris Interactive Digital Transformation in Potash Mining Program is changing all that. This initiative empowers Indigenous students for careers in the minerals industry. 

The program was founded in 2020, with eight weeks of classes and two weeks of practical experience at Mosaic’s Colonsay mine. The course has been highly successful, and plans to continue educating and preparing Indigenous students for fruitful careers in the minerals industry. 

The Mosaic Company has invested $1 million to date, supporting this program that is directly improving diversity in the minerals industry. 

Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Micro-Credentialing Opportunities

The root of how we encourage change in any industry comes from the educational institutions. Luckily, the minerals industry is seeing the revamping of educational opportunities and processes. 

For example, Saskatchewan Polytechnic is utilizing micro-credentialing in its Surge program. Micro-credentials are short, focused courses that accelerate your skills development in a specific area. With the Surge program, you can either attend in-person events with industry professionals or utilize online self-paced courses.

The micro-credentials programs are: 

  • Recognized by industry leaders
  • Display professional accreditation
  • Demonstrate your up-to-date skills and knowledge to peers and employers
  • Create other opportunities for learning

Surge offers micro-credentialing in Computers & Technology, Industry & Manufacturing, Business & Productivity, Entrepreneurship & Leadership, and more! Many micro-credentials can directly support the upcoming minerals workforce, helping them to develop highly relevant and specific skills.

From education to safety to technology, the minerals industry is ever-changing and ever-improving. Minerals companies are constantly developing innovations, technologies, and processes with an increased emphasis on safety and efficiency. 

This industry is powering our future, and projects like the ones you just read about are making it an incredible movement to be part of! If you’re interested in keeping up with the cutting edge of innovation in the minerals industry, check out our site