International Minerals Innovation Institute

The Importance of Saskatchewan’s Innovation Ecosystem to the Minerals Industry

Minerals and metals have been providing people with materials and tools to feed and shelter people, grow communities and power industry. From the ancient versions of light and heat sources to the modern technologies and applications of today, minerals have continued to be the foundation of society. 

As we step into a more conscious, sustainable version of the future, minerals will remain the foundation of powering and feeding the growing world. We need bright, innovative minds to meet this challenge. Luckily, we are seeing and fostering an incredible group effort in working towards this goal, especially in Saskatchewan.

Cigar Lake, Cameco Corp.

What is the Future of Mineral Use?

We can’t predict the future exactly, but we can certainly make educated inferences based on current trends in technology. As our society becomes more concerned about climate change and the environment, the call for green technologies is growing louder. Some of the key demands from the minerals industry so far include:

  • Lithium for batteries, a highly sought-after mineral as demand for electric vehicles grows. 
  • Copper for greater electrification in electric vehicles. As we work towards a low-carbon economy, copper becomes vital due to its superior electrical and thermal conductivity. 
  • High-tech devices such as smartphones, digital cameras, LED lights, and flat screens require rare-earth elements as components. Rare earth elements include Samarian, Thulium, Terbium, Ytterbium, Dysprosium, and more. 
  • Clean/low GHG emitting sources of energy require uranium (for new nuclear power plants) and copper and aluminium for wind, solar photovoltaic and expansion of our electricity network.
  • Potash for sustainable agriculture.

Who is Innovating With Minerals?

The ideas and technologies flooding forth as we use minerals to meet the challenges and needs of the future come from within and beyond the minerals industry. From research to development to testing to implementation, we have some impressive experts and teams on our side. 

Some of the key players in this innovative space include minerals industry professionals, engineers, the agriculture industry, supply chain companies, the power industry, manufacturers, construction teams, and more. The power of this collective is clear when we see some of the incredible solutions being brought to the table.

How is the Minerals Industry Keeping Up?

As we continue to rely heavily on the minerals industry in new ways, it has faced challenges and subsequent breakthroughs that are keeping it effective and ready to test and implement. Some trends include: 

  • Automation is being introduced into the industry in various capacities, improving both safety and productivity. Removing people from potentially dangerous work and locations has the dual effect of keeping the workforces safer while operating more effectively. 
  • Conversations about diversity have been brought to the forefront, and from this have come countless initiatives, programs, and opportunities for under-represented groups to bring their new perspectives and ideas to the minerals industry.

The Saskatchewan Minerals Industry Innovation Ecosystem

We are fortunate here in Saskatchewan. We are uniquely rich in mineral resources, and therefore enjoy the support of many large companies working to improve processes and support innovation. Organizations such as the Saskatchewan Industrial & Mining Suppliers Association Inc. (SIMSA) are supplying the Sask minerals industry with innovative technologies, equipment, and services. SIMSA alone has over 300 members whose sales exceed $13 billion. Groups like this work directly with minerals companies to understand what they need to develop innovative solutions, from design to manufacturing to implementation.

Saskatchewan also has strong academic and research institutions contributing to meeting the innovation needs of the industry, including Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina, as well as the Saskatchewan Research Council and the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI).  

Governments play a role in supporting the innovation ecosystem as well, through investments in building innovation capacity in both institutions and people. 

The minerals industry ecosystem here in Saskatchewan is driven by the needs from innovative mining firms such as our minerals company members.

We are completely dedicated to encouraging the education, training, research, development, and demonstration needed for innovative minerals solutions. Become a member with us and open up new opportunities to work with the province’s top minerals producers towards effective innovative solutions.