Photo by James Hodgins

Summer is generally considered a time to unwind, relax, enjoy the quiet moments while paddling on a misty lake or hiking the trails to a scenic lookout. This is good medicine for the body and mind. For many of us, the end of the season, with its looming first day of school, has always marked a time of new beginnings. Though 2020 so far has been a huge departure from the norm, I think that departure affords us a huge opportunity. Coming out of the first wave of COVID-19 feels like we are on the cusp of a new world.

For us at CIM, this has meant pivoting to virtual events. This new way of connecting has been actually an advantage – it’s an effective way to share current information and still interact with one another while the government maintains restrictions on travel and limits large gatherings like conventions. I’ve been excited to attend virtual workshops, board meetings and annual general meetings, including those at MIRARCO, Laurentian University’s Bharti School of Engineering, Global Mining Guidelines, Global Mineral Professionals Alliance and Canada Mining Innovation Council. I’m even more excited by the large numbers of attendees at these events. I’m proud to report that CIM’s events were top-shelf – kudos to the organizers. These were well-orchestrated productions including the tailings seminar organized by the Environmental and Social Responsibility Society, the Underground Mining Society’s unveiling of its Canadian mining database and new mentoring outreach, the Canadian Mining Schools Committee’s work on synergies with curriculum and programming and the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee’s webinar. (DIAC, it should be noted, is also hard at work assembling best practice guidelines for creating an inclusive work culture in mining.)

Another notable virtual event I attended recently was the AGM of the Canadian Academy of Engineers, where the keynote speaker, Dr. Laurier Schramm, argued that the sixth wave of innovation, designated as the Remote, Machine-Assisted Revolution, is upon us. This wave has been enabled by technological advances and set in motion by major upheavals such as the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the current global pandemic, forces that undermine the status quo and generate new approaches to business.

The main message I took from the address is to not despair but rather to use this upheaval as a catalyst to regroup and rethink the future with a focus on innovation for societal, environmental and economic growth. Let’s concentrate on finding ways to improve mining with innovative ideas and new technologies to bring about a sustainable industry. We need a whole mine approach: designing for people, our mines and plants, the products, the environment, the shareholders, the community partners and everything in between. Let’s consider all these aspects in our new designs, with an aim to moving beyond compliance to demonstrated commitment to achieve that synergistic, celebrated sustainable outcome.

As we head into fall, with its back-to-work mindset, let’s focus on how, together, we can take advantage of the sixth wave of innovation in Canadian mining.