Enabling Education and Innovation that Supports Smart Mining

Mining is a key contributor to Ontario’s economy: the province’s 28 mines generate about $10 billion in revenues per year — more than any other province — and employ almost 80,000 people. Mining spurs spinoff activity among other sectors, making it a vital engine for driving regional development. Ontario is also the mine financing capital of the world.

The success of Ontario’s mining sector is driven by relevant education and constant innovation. Entrants to the occupation need up-to-date knowledge and skills to make a difference in this dynamic sector. At the same time, mining companies must continually evolve their operations with next-generation technologies to stay competitive and thrive. As an enabler of education, research and innovation in Ontario, ORION is supporting both of these elements by helping to facilitate the training of tomorrow’s mining employees.

ORION provides digital connectivity services to schools, hospitals, research centres, cultural institutions and other public organizations across Ontario. Among its constituents is Sudbury-based Cambrian College, which plays an important role in meeting the employment needs of local mining companies. Sudbury’s mining cluster, which is Ontario’s most valuable, achieves a gross output of $4.2 billion, contributes $2.9 million to Canada’s GDP and employs more than 10,000 people.

Cambrian offers two mining-focused programs: Mining Engineering Technician and Mining Engineering Technology. To ensure students learn about the latest tools and methods of the field, Cambrian formed a partnership with Northern Survey Supply, an Ontario distributor of mining and engineering surveying products. The objective of the partnership was to help Cambrian integrate a more advanced surveying tool into the curriculum of students in mining programs, as well as those related to civil engineering.

“Students coming out of these programs need to know how to use industry technologies,” says Mike Commito, director of applied research at Cambrian. “The goal was to give students the opportunity to train on leading-edge equipment before entering the workforce.”

Students use an industry-leading laser scanner surveying tool that captures surroundings with high-resolution 3D panoramic images. The device makes it possible to scan underground more quickly, and to create more comprehensive renderings — in effect, full 3D maps. More efficient and accurate geological measurement allows mining companies to operate more effectively.

“The scanners capture more data points at a faster rate and produce rich imaging,” Commito says. “Faster and better data leads to enhanced productivity and quicker results, which equals smart mining.”

For students and faculty to make use of the scanners, Cambrian needed enough computer network capacity to accommodate the vast amount of data captured and stored by the devices. Each scan can produce data files that are many gigabytes in size. As the college set about expanding its storage area network, ORION’s ultra-high-speed fibre optic network provided the support Cambrian needed become proficient at using this scanning technology, which will ultimately bolster this important local economic driver.

“ORION has been an important partner in supporting and enhancing our networking capacity, and played an important role in helping to make this project happen,” Commito says. “Students are building expertise that will help boost the performance of our local mining industry.”