2014 Canadian Budget: What it Means for Mining

2014 Canadian BudgetWhat the 2014 Canadian Budget Means for Mining

The annual release of Canada’s budget is met with equal parts praise, condemnation and apathy. This year’s effort is no exception. It was the Finance Minister’s goal to put Canada’s financial house in order. Translation: balance the books and curb spending. As for Canada’s mining industry, there haven’t been any major additions or reductions and that is actually good news.

There are a few key highlights that are of importance for the mining industry:

  • The 15% Mineral Exploration Tax Credit will be extended until March 2015;
  • Increase in investment for the Northern Economic Development Program;
  • Increase in the transportation infrastructure in the North;
  • Investment in Aboriginal communities to provide a source of skilled labor.

Among the highlights of the budget is an extension of the 15% Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (METC). This will now be in effect until March 2015 and that is very welcome news according to the Mining Association of Canada (MAC). This extremely helpful tax incentive benefits all Canadian miners, providing an incentive for continual exploration of minerals. Investors also benefit from the tax credit, creating a robust environment in managing risk. Naturally, every stakeholder in Canadian mining would like to see this tax credit become a permanent fixture.

The budget also includes $40 million to be spent over the next two years on the Strategic Investment in Northern Economic Development program (SINED). This will provide a much-needed boost for geological mapping which will have a positive trickledown effect for mining operations everywhere. It has been estimated that for every dollar spent by the government in this area, five dollars will be generated from the private sector.

Another concern to Canada mining is the investment in infrastructure. Without decent means of transportation across the country, the mining industry and the entire economy will suffer. This budget proposes $47 billion for a Build Canada Fund. It is meant to be spent on all kinds of road, bridge, rail and public transit projects over the next ten years. Some have noted that the funding earmarked for infrastructure from last year’s budget still hasn’t made its way to the First Nations communities it was meant for. Hopefully, that money and this new money will have a better flow rate. In other words, it needs to be spent.

Finally, the new budget contains provisions that are set up to help aboriginal youths gain a better foothold in education. A financial infusion of $1.9 billion will hopefully steer more First Nations youth towards better education and job training resources. This will provide them with greater opportunities to contribute to the Canadian workforce. That will certainly benefit Canadian mining as the need to find skilled workers grows. Already, Canada’s mining industry is the leading employer of aboriginals. There is no reason why that trend can’t continue.


The Cost Benefits of Peristaltic Mining Pumps

peristaltic mining pumpsThe Cost Benefits of Peristaltic Mining Pumps

A major component of any mining operation is a dependable and durable pumping system. Within the various options for mining pumps there is a standout. Peristaltic pumps have been found to reduce costs through better energy efficiency and also help to alleviate environmental concerns. The basic principle behind the design of the peristaltic pipes is their ability to compress then relax a stretch of tubing or hose, allowing for a more even flow of the contents. A roller makes its way through the length of the tubing to create the effect, while simultaneously setting up a solid seal between the suction action and eventual discharge. The result is no slippage of materials. There are many more reasons why peristaltic pumps are among the most effective systems that can be deployed in the mine. Consider these factors:

Less Water Required

For an operation that is attempting to process as much as 70 tonnes of product per hour, the average slurry pump can require huge amounts of water. When the slurry system is replaced by the peristaltic pump, a company can cut back their water consumption by as much as 1,000 million litres per year. That’s around one-third less water usage than that of a slurry pump.

Less Power Needed

Using those same average production numbers as a baseline, a slurry pump requires around 45 kW per hour in energy. Bring in the peristaltic pump and that figure drops to 20 kW. That could translate into cutting some energy costs in half. In addition to the savings, using these pumps will also help mines that need to ration power, without causing major production delays.

Less Pollution Created

Cyanide is a common component used in the leaching process in a wide range of mining operations, especially in the extraction of gold. There is no getting around the fact that if released into the surrounding environment, cyanide can pose a major health risk. In a typical dosing solution, the cavity pumps used in the process often require seal replacements. That can lead to leakage and seepage. Since the peristaltic pumps are designed to operate without seals, this helps to mitigate your chance for leakage. The direct impact of this feature is positive for the environment and can allay any concerns of environmental groups.

Less Expensive To Operate

Continual slurry pump use results in an acidic build up. As a result, the impellers used in those kinds of pumps will break down more often. That means increased maintenance checks. When that happens, production is slowed down or shut off all together. None of this happens with peristaltic pump usage. In fact, the hoses on a peristaltic pump can often be replaced with minimal interruption to the operation. Without those expensive metal impellers, the operating cost per pump unit goes down dramatically.

When you add it all up, it’s clear to see what kind of choices need to be made for mining pumps. If your operation isn’t working with peristaltic pumps you need to ask why. 

Quebec Reforms Mining Act

mining actQuebec Reforms Mining Act  

Mining companies are sorting through a piece of legislation that will have a direct impact on the way they do business in the province of Quebec. Before the end of last year, the Quebec Assembly adopted the Mining Act, Bill 70 or simply, Bill 70. This was actually the fourth attempt at overhauling the Mining Act, 1987. All of this builds upon the groundwork put forth by Bill 55 entitled “An Act To Amend The Mining Tax Act.” Even though this sounds a bit confusing, when you get into the details of Bill 70 you’ll soon realize what sweeping changes it may bring to the entire mining industry.

Among the highlights of Bill 70 are the following:

  • Allows municipalities to directly oversee mining activities in their districts;
  • Expands the obligations of certain mining rights holders in an attempt to keep them more accountable and transparent in their business practices;
  • Broadens the scope of environmental and economic concerns;
  • Requires increased consultation with Aboriginal groups;
  • Provides more oversight authority to the Minister.

With regard to the involvement of municipalities, Bill 70 allows districts to determine which plots of land should be classified as incompatible or compatible to mining operations. All of these newly granted oversight powers could be superseded by Quebec’s Minister of Natural Resources, if it determined that a municipality’s decisions goes against the provincial government policy.

With the new rules governing claim holders, they are now obligated to notify any municipality that they have taken over mining rights within 60 days of transfer. Before any work can be started on the claim, the holder must also notify the local governments within 30 days. This puts the burden on the claim holder to be more responsible with their business. In other words, you can’t just “stake a claim and start digging.”

The environmental impact of Bill 70 is an issue that was hotly debated. According to the principles of this legislation, mining companies will now have to put up a financial guarantee that will cover any costs for restoring a mine site. That restoration must also begin within three years of the operation shutting down. There will be no more abandoned mines in Quebec. Failure to comply with these new regulations can mean hefty fines in the neighborhood of $6,000,000.

Bill 70 has addressed a major concern of Aboriginal groups, the exploitation of land that is deemed burial grounds. After consulting with the Minister, those lands can be excluded from any mining operation. This doesn’t mean that all Aboriginal groups are happy with the passage of Bill 70. There was mounting frustration when debate on the bill was cut short by the majority party, Parti Québécois. While the Aboriginals applaud the efforts to get them more involved, there was hope that the bill would do more to curtain exploration on those sacred lands.

Finally, another key component of Bill 70 is granting the Minister the right to put mining claims up for auction. This replaces the previous “first-come-first-served” procedures used by mining companies.

Bill 70 now moves on to the Quebec National Assembly where it is sure to attract more debate. 

Canadian Mining Resources: New Resources for Companies

Canadian mining resourcesCanadian Mining Resources: New Resources for Companies

The melting Arctic ice is revealing a veritable treasure trove of Canadian mining resources to the determined miners willing to brave the frigid temperatures to retrieve the bounty. Call it the silver lining of global warming.

With the ice floes breaking up, ships are able to gain access to coastlines that were once off limits. However, this doesn’t mean that mining companies can merely swoop in and start shoveling up the rewards. The proper support system and retrieval infrastructure needs to be put in place before any company can get serious about mining in the Arctic.

Canada’s Arctic coastline stretches for 162,000 kilometres. The main hub for operations has been along the shores of Nunavut’s mainland. Currently, five mines are deemed fully operational. Within the next few years, at least three more mining operations could be set up in this resource rich zone.

What is being found under the Arctic ice? A better question might be, “What isn’t being found?”

Diamond Cache

It was only a few months ago when Peregrince Diamonds Limited reported finding one of the richest diamond deposits on the planet. Their CH-6 strike uncovered an impressive 2.7 carats per tonne. These are diamonds graded as “high-quality.”

The source of these diamonds can be found in Chidliak, which is situated about 120 kilometers north of Iqaluit. Diamond merchants are keeping a close eye on these operations. If the melting ice can open up pathways, then there may be a plethora on diamond deposits to be discovered.

Searching For Coal

Canada Coal Incorporated has been exploring Ellesmere Island for the last 30 years. Their findings reveal a potential coal deposit that could yield upwards of 20 billion tonnes. The key is securing cooperation from the island’s indigenous Inuit population, all 140 of them.

The Inuit are rightly concerned about the potential environmental impact of a mining operation on their land. Discussions are ongoing to find a way to make all sides happy and move forward with the excavation.

Shipping Base Metals

Located 350 kilometres inland, Australia’s MMG Limited has been extracting zinc-copper from the arctic for quite some time. To increase productivity, MMG is eyeing the new shipping lanes that are opening up from the melting ice. In fact, there are plans on the table to use Gray’s Bay for a deep-sea port that would be on the receiving end of an all-weather road, built across the Barrenlands. This is a huge project that could lead to the loading of up to 10 to 15 ships during the summer and fall seasons.

Finding Gold

The model for Arctic gold mining operations can be found at Nunuvut’s Meadowbank. This production is owned by Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, out of Toronto. Current tallies put the yield at around 360,000 ounces per year. Like the base metal mines, this operation is situated far inland and can only be supplied by ship. However, the company is looking at opening the Meliadine mine that is only 25 kilometres inland from the Rankin Inlet. This would only be possible thanks to the improved economics of bringing ships into these areas.

Iron Reign

The biggest operation in this area is the Mary River Project by the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation. Miners are looking to sink $740 million in to an open-pit mining operation that could extract 3.5 million tonnes by the beginning of 2015. By 2020, the expanded rail and port operations could ramp that number up to 20 million tonnes.

While the debate about how to handle climate change continues, savvy companies are taking full advantage of the abundant Arctic mining resources. Will yours?

Sustainability of the Canada Mining Standards

Canada Mining standardsCanada’s Sustainable Mining Standards

Since its inception, the Mining Association of Canada has been committed to fostering policies around responsible mining and Canada Mining Standards. To that end, they developed the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program. This is a comprehensive guide to support Canadian mining operations by minimizing environmental risks and improving productivity.

TSM was started in 2004 using the core principles of accountability, transparency, and credibility. Its purpose is to guide its members towards a proactive role as a major source of energy and a willing partner in supporting the environment.

Accountability comes into play because every member of the Mining Association of Canada is obligated to participate in the Towards Sustainable Mining program. This means conducting ongoing assessments at all levels of a mining operation. These assessments are made available to the community at large, which speaks to the transparency issue.

In fact, there are 23 important indicators that are used to judge a mining operation’s sustainability. The results of these “report cards” are made available to the public. As for credibility, the participating TSM members are in active consultation with the Community of Interest Advisory Panel. This puts them in direct contact with civic leaders and concerned citizens. The goal is to keep the lines of communication open and to answer any and all concerns that the groups might have.

How does Towards Sustainable Mining work? First, the mining operation needs to commit to the program’s guiding principles. Those principles set the foundation for a company to act responsibly through all their practices. Among the principles are the following items:

  • Involving communities of interest in the design and implementation of the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative;
  • Proactively seeking, engaging and supporting dialogue regarding our operations;
  • Fostering leadership throughout our companies to achieve sustainable resource stewardship wherever we operate;
  • Seeking to minimize the impact of our operations on the environment and biodiversity through all stages of development, from exploration to closure;
  • Working with our communities of interest to address legacy issues, such as orphaned and abandoned mines;
  • Respect human rights and treat those with whom we deal fairly and with dignity;
  • Respect the cultures, customs and values of people with whom our operations interact;
  • Recognize and respect the unique role, contribution, and concerns of Aboriginal people (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) and indigenous people worldwide.

Think of these principles as a kind of compass for a mining operation to follow. Those guiding principles are supported through the implementation of the 23 indicators, mentioned above. Each of these indicators is assigned a letter grade from C to AAA.

Additionally, members submit to an external verification process. This happens every three years when an objective third party steps in to review the operations. Those reviews are certified through a Letter of Assurance issued from the CEO’s office.

Due to the importance of this program, the Mining Association of Canada offers extensive training in TSM compliance. This means that every operation is provided with the exact same level of skill sets required to get this program up and running.

The goal of every member is to achieve a rating of Level A. At that level, the mining company has proven that it is keeping those practices that support the environment at the forefront of their operation.


Is Your Professional Appearance Keeping You From Mining?

Professional AppearanceIs Your Professional Appearance Keeping You From Mining?

As it stands, Victoria is the only city in Canada that has laws that prohibit discrimination based on appearance. As a result of these special laws, there have been over a hundred claims filed based on people being rejected for a job because of their weight. There have also been claims based on height, hairstyles and body modifications. Even a person’s body odor has been cause to file a discrimination claim.

Fair or not, these claims are difficult to prove, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the job. With regards to things like tattoos and piercing, it might be more of a perception issue than anything else. Could your tattoos be keeping you out of the mining workforce?

Surveys have found that the perception of people with tattoos is that they are somehow “rough around the edges.” Those discreetly placed tattoos that won’t even be revealed in a job interview aren’t the problem. However, it is hard to hide full sleeve, neck or face tattoos.

Body modifications like multiple piercings and ear gauges could also stop recruiters from hiring individuals. Of course, unless the recruiter specifically mentions your body art as the cause, you may never know for sure. Do you want to take that chance?

It may also come down to the type of tattoo that can be seen. Certain tattoos like tear drops and spider webs could often refer to someone with a criminal history. These are often the markings of gang related “trophies.” Tattoos that are overly offensive such as those with nudity or depictions of violence could also be a detriment to getting hired.

Having tattoos does not automatically keep you out of mine operation work. There are sure to be plenty of workers who enjoy getting tattoos. However, what if you decide that you want to advance from your current position? Would the management of your company be accepting of those tattoos?

This isn’t so much an issue for among coworkers; however, it could be when it comes to you dealing with potential clients and vendors. In other words, what might those people think about a person covered in ink and piercings? If there is a chance that they may have a negative connotation associated with your “art work,” then it will be hard for your upper management team to get over that.

What can you do if you have visible tattoos? If you are looking for advancement, then talk to your company’s human resource representative. Be blunt and ask them if your ink is going to hold you back from a promotion. If so, then you might want to think about getting those tattoos removed. What is more important? A tattoo or a good job?

The good news is that tattoo acceptance is gaining ground as more and more people are getting them. This acceptance is probably more widespread among the younger generation. Still, if you’re thinking about adding ink, then you need to be aware of the impact it could have on your future. The best advice is to find a way to keep your tattoos covered.

Filling In the Mining Labor Shortage Gaps

mining labor shortageFilling In the Mining Labor Shortage Gaps

A crisis is looming in the mining industry. No, it’s not centered on environmental impact or fluctuations in the commodities market. What the industry will be facing in a few years is a mining labor shortage.

Currently, the mining industry has around 235,000 workers all across Canada who are on the front lines of exploration, development and mining. However, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) has been crunching the numbers. Within the next ten years, there will be a need for 146,000 new workers to enter the industry, just to keep up with resource demands from customers. That’s good news for the employment market, but not great news for the mining industry that is struggling to find skilled workers to fill the gaps.

Could the answer come from foreign workers helping to fill the demand? That depends on whom you ask.

Recently, a Chinese mining company caused a controversy when it planned to bring over 200 Chinese miners and put them to work at one of their mines in B.C. This plan created opposition from two local unions who challenged the hiring practices in court. Ultimately, the company was allowed to move forward with the hires because they were able to prove that there weren’t enough skilled operators to assume the responsibilities. Try as they might, the unions couldn’t argue with facts.

Due to this situation, there has been a renewed effort on developing proper training programs to expand the ability for Canadians to take up these jobs. In the meantime, the work still needs to be done. Should mines shut down while they wait for workers to finish their classes? This is not a practical solution.

Companies would like to find qualified, long-term, local hires. Unfortunately, the companies facing the shortages, as well as the potential workers will have to be flexible in order to fill open positions. For instance, operations in Alberta’s oil patch actively recruit workers all across the country. Often this will result in workers flying in for a two week shift, then flying back home for their time off.

Although having to endure a large amount of time spent commuting, the willing workers are taking advantage of an opportunity that could certainly lead to financial reward. If the travel heavy job allows them to acquire experience and new skill sets, they could be positioning themselves for advancement within the company or qualifying themselves for a job closer to home. That being said, it makes sense for skilled workers to go where the work is. If you live in downtown Toronto and are not willing to move or travel, you can’t really complain about not finding a mining job.

In addition to a push for training programs, the government plans to make changes in its foreign worker program. These include charging higher fees for applications and compelling companies to pay foreign workers the same rates as local hires. This way you can’t argue that Canadian mine operators are being undercut by the industry.

The company Taseko Mines Ltd, is about to start a new mining operation in central B.C. They’ve proudly announce that they have no plans to hire short-term foreign workers. Of course, they also acknowledge that of the 600 resumes they have on file, there is no guarantee those applicants will have the necessary skills.

The takeaway from all of this? If you’re looking for a dependable career, start training for a job in the mining industry. When you’re finished with your certification, a job could be waiting for you. 

Best Places for a Mining Education in Canada

mining education in canadaBest Places for a Mining Education in Canada

In the early days of the mining industry, workers got valuable, on the job training from operators already well versed in the career and industry. As an apprentice, you could learn skills across many different sectors of a mining operation. Today, advances in technology have created even more opportunities to work in the mining industry beyond manual labor.

There is also a growing need for management positions to be filled at operations all around the world. If you’re looking into a career in mining, then you’ll first want to build a solid educational foundation. Here in Canada there are 10 universities and 25 community colleges that provide courses covering all aspects of the mining industry.

If you’re not sure which specific field you want to go into, it might be helpful to start at the community college level. That way you can sample many courses to see what would be the perfect fit for your mining career. The following are lists of programs and institutions you may want to consider if you’re interested in furthering a mining education.

Mining and Mineral Engineering

As a mining engineer, you’ll be on the frontline of an operation as you focus on the design and actual construction of a mine. You’ll also be involved in the creation of the surrounding support facilities that will handle the extraction processing. These campuses offer degree programs in this field:

Metallurgical Engineering

A metallurgical engineer is focused on what happens after the metals and ores are extracted from the mine. You’ll be working on making improvements in the processing machinery and developing new ways to refine mineral commodities. Check out these campuses for a degree in this area:

Geological Engineering

If you like to travel, this is the ideal job. As a geological engineer, you’ll be researching areas that hold the potential for new mine operations. This could mean surveying in some very remote locations. It can also mean some very thrilling adventures. Here are the universities that offer this program:

Mining Operations

This is where you’ll have the ability to develop skills for the actual labor operations of a mine. You’ll get a crash course in equipment operation and the various types of jobs, from blasters to diamond drillers to prospectors. This is also a program that will put you in the field for an apprenticeship program. In other words, you’ll be learning skills and getting paid at the same time. Check out these training facilities:

Mining Safety Mistakes You Could be Making

mining safety mistakesMining Safety Mistakes You Could be Making

Statistically speaking, major mining accidents are a bit of a rarity. When a severe accident occurs, it becomes the lead news story for several days. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of mining operations all over the world that continue to excavate as per their usual procedures. Therefore, the question is, “are these mines acting safely?” There are safety points that every mining operation can and should implement. Mining is a dangerous job, were safety must be priority number one, at all times. Are you sure that mistakes, of any caliber, aren’t being made at your mine?

Too Many Slogans, Not Enough Action

Putting up safety slogan posters and issuing “action” memos is an easy way for management to promote workplace safety; but if executive leaders truly put safety first, you’ll see them in action. Management should be following up on monthly reviews and exemplifying the safety signage they are posting. Maintaining safety checklists and protocols are important, a mining manager should work closely with their team to inspect safety systems; a task which creates a great opportunity for managers to lead by example. Showing workers that they are genuinely serious about safety will go a lot further than any “break room slogan.”

Letting Things Pass 

An accident can occur in the blink of an eye. The same could be said for overlooking the conditions that may lead up to that accident. When management overlooks minor breaches for the sake of expediency, they are essentially showing workers that they can cut corners. This is not the message you want to send. The safety guidelines apply to all workers, during all shifts, at all times. Anything less, even the “smallest” of infractions, is putting the entire operation at risk.

Not Recognizing Good Work

There are many mining operations which post a sign that reads “____ days since the last accident.” The hope is that the number of days between accidents continues to grow. While that is certainly a “hat tip” to the workers, it really doesn’t go far enough in providing positive reinforcement for following the safety rules. Does your management team acknowledge when safety requirements are met?

Ignoring Safety Protocols

Safety protocols are not created on a whim; a lot of effort has gone into those procedures. However, if management ignores protocol because they find them “intrusive,” they are doing a disservice to the entire operation. Instead, management should be receptive to hearing feedback from the workers, if and when there is an issue with a particular safety practice. Remember, the main work force is the front-line when it comes to maintaining safety. They carry out procedures and are within the work conditions each day,and  they will have great insight when it comes to knowing what works and what doesn’t.

Not Embracing Safety Routines

There are safety routines including checklists before, during, and after a work shift, that every mining operator needs to follow. By sticking to these routines, workers at all levels of experience will know what hazards to look out for during their shifts. Yes, you are “drilling safety procedures” into the workers’ head, but that is how they will stick.

Lack of Focus for Safety Observations

The best way to see if safety procedures are being followed is to observe those procedures in action. The mine’s management team should be conducting safety inspections on a regular basis. These occurrences need to be more than just checking off a list; constructive criticism should be offered to all workers in order to help them improve their actions. Catching a worker doing something wrong is not the main goal, noticing an error and challenging them to do better is what will make it a safer work environment for the entire staff.

Fatigue Being Studied with ReadiBand

FatigueFatigue Being Studied with ReadiBand

Worker fatigue has long been a problem plaguing many, but especially those employed as mining operators. However, it might have less to do with working too long and more to do with not getting the right amount of rest. Even though doctors recommend that we get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, rarely does anyone sleep for that amount of time. In order to find out how miners are holding up, several major mining companies are teaming up with Fatigue Science and the ReadiBand sleep monitoring device.

The ReadiBand is a much more affordable and convenient way to collect sleep data. The other method required the test subject to sleep overnight in a lab, hooked up to electrodes that feed the data to recording devices. Sleeping in the comfort of your own bed, the ReadiBand is worn like a wristwatch and runs on rechargeable batteries. When activated, the ReadiBand utilizes a sophisticated program to determine the level of sleep quality. These findings are based on the wrist movements of the person wearing the device, a method of collecting data which is referred to as actigraphy; the same semiconductors used to transmit this data were created for work with the US Department of Defense.  The data collected through monitoring is then transmitted to a computer and analyzed by Fatigue Science.

The type of information that the ReadiBand collects includes the following:

  • Average amount of time slept each night;
  • The amount of time it takes to fall asleep;
  • The number of times a person wakes up during the night;
  • Fatigue risk analysis based on blood alcohol levels vs. fatigue levels.

Add it all together and the wearer of the ReadiBand has concrete information to discuss with their doctor. Together, adjustments can be made to ensure more effective sleep patterns. This is a proactive step towards combating the issue of work fatigue and could change the way everyone in the mining industry looks at sleep.

One of the first operations to bring Fatigue Science on board was the Rio Tinto mining company. Back in 2011, the Rio Tinto workers were asked to wear the ReadiBand over a two-week period. In just those first 14 days, data showed that the highest occurrence of fatigue-related accidents were happening at the conclusion of the first day shift and during the last night shift. Because of these findings, Rio Tinto introduced new safety guidelines that prevent workers from operating heavy machinery if they’ve been awake for 14 hours straight or more. Once those rules were put into place, those fatigue-related accidents faded. The workers also reported feeling better, which improved moral and helped with overall productivity.

Here in Canada, the ReadiBand is being used by Vancouver’s hockey team, the Canucks; and consumers are renting the ReadiBand from the pharmacy chain, London Drugs. For a nominal charge, the local pharmacist can upload all the collected data and obtain a detailed sleep report for the user.

Fatigue Science has been leading the charge to study sleep disorders. Their fatigue measurement technology is helping a large segment of the population get a better night’s rest. This will translate into less fatigue-related accidents and better health all around.