Mining Innovation: 100 Innovations highlighted in a new book
Posted by Alana Wilson on 6/7/2012 10:17:13 AM
Humans have mined minerals since the beginning of our civilization. While such a long history may imply old and outdated methods, a new book by Minalliance on 100 innovations in the mining industry quickly dispels this idea. Instead, the innovations of this industry and its continual improvements in efficiency, safety, environmental performance, and new technologies are highlighted in this fascinating read.
The authors also note how early innovations from mining spread to other industrial applications including the steam engine, the steam train, dynamite, and modern day environmental regulations.
“The world of mining innovation does not operate in a vacuum: technological advances are constantly shared with other industrial fields, the latest ideas and tools exchanged, and new solutions presented to society”.[1, p.18]
Some of the innovations highlighted include:
- #3 Portable Analyzers that use X-rays to identify the chemical elements in a rock’s surface. This allows on-the-spot results, reducing unnecessary sampling and lab testing and decreasing the environmental impacts of exploration
- #10 Gas Geochemistry that detects the gaseous substance given off by buried deposits to help determine the minerals underground, their concentration, and potential orebodies
- #15 Lasers mounted on airplanes are used to determine the topography and map a region more quickly and accurately than conventional means
- #29 3-D Geological Models are built using software that transforms drilling and mineral databases into 3-D reconstructions of its shape and size. These are used to devise better exploration and mining strategies
- #47 Mining Simulators provide a safe way for workers to train for all types of mining situations by using immersive and virtual training systems
- #65 Underground Preconcentration to separate ore minerals from non-economic mined rock is being explored as a way to reduce environmental impacts, noise, dust, and transport costs
- #69 Personnel Tracking with radio frequency emitting RFID tags to track underground workers to improve worker safety and better prepare for emergencies
- #76 Fatigue-Measuring Watches are used to measure the fatigue level of workers to improve safety and reduce the possibility of workplace accidents
- #84 Tele-mining using remote-controlled mining machines to allow difficult to access or naturally radioactive ores to be mined safely
- #87 Biodegradable Explosives that use strains of bacterium to decompose explosive residues and reduce pollution
- #88 Constructed Wetlands that use vegetation and bacteria to mimic the natural ability of wetlands to remove metals and neutralize the acidity of mine effluent
- #95 Underground Backfill sends waste material underground as waste rock or a cement paste. This reduces the amount of surface waste and allows the waste to be stored in a stable environment with little temperature fluctuation, water circulation and rainfall.
As mining blogger and consultant Jack Caldwell points out, the mining industry should be proud of the innovations and should share the message of new, innovative and conscientious mining.  He also notes that a series of such documents is needed, as the innovations in tailings management alone could fill a book. The full report can be downloaded via this link.
1 Minalliance, 100 Innovations in the Mining Industry, 2012, PDAC and The Mining Association of Canada.
2 Caldwell, J. Innovation in Mining. A New Book from PDAC and the Mining Association of Canada. I Think Mining 2012 [cited 2012 May 8]; Available from: http://ithinkmining.com/2012/05/08/innovation-in-mining-a-new-book-from-pdac-and-the-mining-assocation-of-canada/