Will the wildfires in Saskatchewan permanently change the mining industry?
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Originally reported by our sister brand Business Review Canada and Canada’s Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, hundreds of wildfires have recently erupted in Saskatchewan; the fires have caused the Seabee gold mine to suspend various operations. Claude Resources, the company behind the operation, has noted that one of the more than 100 fires actually came within eight kilometres of its site, meaning some 355 employees had to evacuate.
Furthermore, Cameco and Areva have had to stop shipping uranium from northern operations because various highways and airstrips have been closed from time to time due to all of the smoke and flames.
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Regarding the issue, Cameco spokesman Gord Struthers has said, “It’s a bit of a juggling act, but we’re managing to get through it.”
Interestingly enough, the fires haven’t affected the mines as much as they’ve hindered the workers. Northern residents make up almost half of the company’s employees.
“It’s a major ordeal for many of the people who work for us,” Struthers continued. “You know, they have family members evacuated, and they may have fires threatening their communities or property.”
Cameco and Areva are hopeful and believe that the fires will not cause uranium delivers to suffer, in large part because of the inventories, as well as the ability to manage and maintain the inflow of essential supplies.
While wildfires aren’t anything out of the norm for the north, they can still be quite dangerous and create numerous hazards and consequences—for the mining industry and those involved in it.
One thing to remember is the change in climate patterns and how this can cause fires to sporadically erupt.
The fires have affected the mining industry in the north somewhat, but not enough to completely shut it down. It seems that the workers who live in the surrounding areas are the ones facing the stronger blow of the fires—but, thankfully, nothing too life threatening has taken place.
However, it goes without saying, if the fires do happen to continue or even get worse, all parties involved in the industry could face a variety of challenges.
Anglo American: FutureSmart Mining
Anglo American’s approach to technology, digitalisation and sustainability is changing the nature of the way the company mines. These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how the company sources, mines, processes, moves and markets its products – and how its stakeholders experience that business. Anglo American is transforming its physical and societal footprint with FutureSmart Mining.
“FutureSmart Mining is our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining,” Anglo American’s Tom McCulley told Mining Gllobal. In his role as CEO for Anglo American Peru & Group Head of Projects he has overseen investment of more than $5bn at the company’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru.
“These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how we source, mine, process, move and market our products – and how our stakeholders experience our business. It’s about transforming our physical and societal footprint.”
Anglo is undertaking a feasibility study to assess the possibility of rolling out one of its FutureSmart technologies, Coarse Particle Recovery (CPR), at Quellaveco. “CPR crushes particles to 2.5 times larger than normal, reducing energy consumption and mill time, leading to a 20% increase in throughput and 85% water recovery - a key issue in Peru given the concerns around water scarcity,” says McCulley.
“By allowing water to release from the much coarser particles, CPR will reduce the risks associated with wet tailings and ultimately help eliminate them altogether. When combined with low cost additives, it is possible to dewater residual waste and produce dry stackable tailings. This technology remains a focus area for us as water sent to tailings facilities often represents the largest water loss at a mine.”
Quellaveco is going to be the first mine to run the FutureSmart operating model from day one. Anglo’s idea is to build a stable base on which it can layer new technologies, CPR being one of them.
“We will also be a fully digital mine, which brings us future benefits in terms of understanding and applying changes in real time,” adds McCulley. “Our trucks and our drills will be automation-ready. We have taken the approach that, when we decide to move into an autonomous operation, no jobs will be lost, but the nature of some people’s jobs will have to change.”
FutureSmart is a blend of technology and sustainability,” said McCulley in an interview with Global Business Reports. “If you go back to the vision and design of Quellaveco, it has really been focused on the long-term sustainability of the mine through effective use of things like water, energy and the environment. Quellaveco has been focused on technology such as automation, with digital and analytical tools all coming together. We will be looking at future technologies to bolt on as we go to ensure that we are optimizing the sustainable use of resources and remaining cost-effective.”
Anglo American’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru has created 15,000 jobs during construction and approximately 2,500 jobs are planned for operations, increasing Peru’s copper production by a forecast 300,000 tonnes per year. The mine’s first copper production is expected in 2022. To learn more about Anglo American's Quellaveco copper project read our feature here.