A screenshot from the Mine Evolution game. Courtesy of Science North.

If you have ever browsed the app store for a mining game, you get a small window into how the public sees the industry: the images are usually of a man with a pickaxe or shovel digging and filling up a minecart with gold, which he rides all the way to the bank. That is not how it works and it is also an outdated picture of an industry that is rapidly changing in many aspects, from its technology to the people who make up its workforce.

A new strategy game called Mine Evolution has been designed to provide a more modern viewpoint of one of the world’s oldest industries.

Mine Evolution is a collaboration between The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, a number of its branches and societies and Science North, a science centre in Sudbury, Ontario, which hosts Dynamic Earth, an attraction with earth science and mining experiences. The game was developed by D&D Skunkworks.

Jennifer Beaudry, senior scientist at Dynamic Earth, told CIM Magazine that Science North had always wanted to develop a game and saw its chance after the pandemic hit and children were switching to online education.

“This was the opportunity for us to shed a different light on what modern mining is about and where the future is heading,” she said.

As described on its website, the mission in the game is to “explore the ground beneath your feet and search for precious minerals that are critical to evolving your mine—from your building materials to Wi-Fi technologies.”

Users are involved in all aspects of mine development, some of which include picking a plot of land, extracting ore by blasting rocks, harnessing solar power and eventually closing the mine. Users run multiple mines across Canada to extract a short list of critical minerals including lithium, nickel and copper and earn financial, social and environmental credits to grow their operations.

Jacqueline Allison, chair of Canstar Resources Inc. and an executive on CIM’s Management and Economics Society, was one of the industry leaders who provided expertise into how to portray certain aspects of the mining industry. She told CIM Magazine that incorporating financial, social and environmental credits into the game is a way to demonstrate how many factors contribute to the success of a mining project.

“In addition to being technically sound, a mining project is expected to provide a financial return, which adequately compensates the operator for the risks being taken,” Allison said. “It is also important for the operator of a mining project to earn and maintain the social licence to operate while minimizing the environmental impact.”

The game intends to inspire younger generations to consider a career in the mining industry, by raising awareness of its innovation, technology and sustainability practices, and highlighting the importance of critical minerals to clean energy technologies.

“This is about introducing people to what mining is,” Beaudry said. “And first and foremost, it’s about having fun—we want people to have fun and play this game. But as you start digging into it, it’s about realizing that mining is high tech. Mining is socially and environmentally conscious. We need to be sustainable in order to continue mining and you see those aspects built throughout the entirety of the game.”

To showcase the people behind the industry, there are moments in the game that introduce actual workers, like Zara, a mining engineer nicknamed the “Rock Doctor” by her team.

Beaudry said the game takes care to showcase the leaps the mining industry has taken when it comes to everything from safety to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. For example, the game requires you to build a refuge station in your mine.

In addition to the game’s educational focus, Science North will release six lesson plans in November geared for grades four to 12 across the country so that teachers have the option of incorporating the game into their curriculum.

Mine Evolution is available for download in English and French for PCs, Android and Apple devices, with an official launch date for the general public at Science North in Sudbury planned for November. It is downloadable and playable offline.