Types of Prototyping for Metal Fabrication

prototyping for metal fabricationTypes of Prototyping for Metal Fabrication

In preparing prototypes, it’s important to have an eye towards your eventual production plans. Whether you will be using precision stamping or fabrication could affect your design, costs, and flexibility down the line. Knowing how you plan to produce your parts will play an important role in the design constraints of the prototyping phase.

Creating quality steel products is no simple task. In order to make the best product for your client base, you have to plan and prepare. We’ve provided you with a few types of prototyping that will help you choose the right prototyping process for your project.

Sheet Metal Prototypes

When it comes to metal products, sheet metal prototyping is the key to success. If this all-important step is skipped during a major run of a key piece and alterations are required, the resulting changes, material losses, and time spent could cost tens of thousands of dollars on even a small project.

Quality steel fabrication relies on a testing and adjustment from the design phase up until production, to prevent major costs down the line. Prototyping with sheet metal allows companies to see and understand the product they are preparing.

Rapid Prototyping

Depending on your needs, different forms of rapid prototyping might be suitable for your business. For marketing models and fit checks, Stereo-lithography, or SLA, is a precise option. If what you need is a functional, durable model, then Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which is less smooth than SLA is a great option. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), on the other hand, makes an excellent engineering model tool, with cost-effective, durable prototyping available. If you need elastomeric or over-mold models, Polyjet might be the option for you. And finally, CNC machining can be used when you need metal models for precision work, but these are fairly expensive.

Precision Fabrication

Metal fabrication is a great tool for prototyping, but it’s a less reliable and consistent method in metal production than stamping. Unlike stamping, if something doesn’t quite work, it isn’t a major challenge to make adjustments. The process includes controlled machining, robotic welding, and accurate cutting techniques, which means that the product is carefully handled at every step of the way. However, the technique tends to be more costly than precision stamping, and the most complex pieces aren’t a great fit for fabrication techniques.

Precision Stamping

Metal stamping can be used to make all kinds of parts, and it’s a relatively fast and cost-effective solution for the production of several identical parts. If you require the production of unique parts, metal stamping probably isn’t the ideal solution since the work and cost to set up a stamp is the same whether you are producing one or thousands of identical pieces.

Precision stamping requires a design that is set in stone, since it’s difficult to make changes to designs once the stamping tools have been created. This leads to fairly long lead times to get production started.

That said, many precision stamping companies offer prototyping services to save costs. Because of the nature of precision stamping, it’s important not to commit to a design until it’s perfect.



Arctic Subsea Technology

arctic subsea technologyArctic Subsea Technology: Oil and Gas Drilling in the Arctic

Offshore drilling is a complicated and challenging process, and even more so in the Arctic. However, growing industry interest in offshore oil in the Canadian Arctic means oil companies need to prepare for subsea drilling in the far north.

As existing oil sources run their course, new regions and resources are gaining the interest of energy companies. Currently, it is estimated that about 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of undiscovered oil is in the Arctic. Moreover, subsea drilling would cut out the pipeline middlemen, and producers could transport their oil on tankers directly to their clients.

Mobile Drilling Rigs

Out at sea, mobile drilling rigs are the common denominator. In the Arctic, rigs need to deal with dangerous sheets of floating ice. This takes a great deal of specialized oilfield support equipment. Rigs must be smaller and lighter than normal drill ships to avoid obstacles. It’s also important that they have built-in ice protection, so hulls are carefully reinforced.

In order to avoid ice, rigs have to be able to predict it. Ice monitoring centres throughout the arctic combine radar and satellite data to observe and predict sea ice in real time. With the help of scientists and meteorologists, it is possible to plan for the best ice-evading drilling plans.

Subsea Processing

A huge area for growth is in subsea processing. There is a lack of sufficient pressure to pump oil out from the deepest depths of the arctic, so contingencies need to be designed to work with the oil at the ocean floor. In the next few decades, the industry will work to increase oil recovery through full well-stream boosting and water flooding, to create incremental capacity through separation, and to improve the economics of gas production through compression.

Some of these technologies are already under development or application. For example, there is already a subsea compression station in Norway, addressing natural gas needs. This vastly increases the production capacity from the well, as the closer the compression is to the field, the better.

Moving off the Platform

Moving towards undersea production means cutting out expensive platforms and replacing them with underwater equipment. However, just like on land, subsea oil equipment needs care and maintenance, and that requires communication. Beyond pressure levels that human divers can attain, remote-operated vehicles carry out maintenance and operational tasks, attached to platforms by electrical cords. The next generation of remote operated vehicles need to be more independent, so that they can address problems without direct human interaction. Such a robot would be ideal for harsh environments such as the Arctic, where ice would sometimes prevent cord-communications.

Managing Information

The other key for autonomous undersea robots is for them to be able to interpret and use huge swaths of data. As the oil industry becomes more and more digitized, greater amounts of information are available to guide autonomous vehicles in all kinds of environments. But in the Arctic, robots must be truly autonomous, and won’t be able to rely on teams of experts to determine what is and is not important. Integrating data into a comprehensible form will be the key to developing effective subsea technologies.

Utilizing the Smart Grid in Oil and Gas

Smart Grid Networking in Oil and Gas Industrysmart grid in oil and gas

As upstream oil and gas companies are leaping into the digital oilfield revolution, the industry is enthusiastically implementing new technology formats that help deliver real-time intelligence and situational awareness in oilfield production. The implementation of smart grids has allowed oilfields to run a more efficient system that keep costs down and meet local government regulations.

Smart grid networking is, as its name suggests, technology for automating networks, monitoring and controlling the flow of two-way data from production to distribution. Essentially, using smart grid technology means that data is transferred efficiently and reliably across the network, through a high level of connectivity and low energy consumption.

With high levels of data being gathered in oilfields, new solutions for data management are becoming even more important. At the same time, ensuring that communications and electrical grids are not over-taxed requires the ability to forecast and respond to demand. Smart grid technology offers oilfields predictive and responsive capabilities by using communication tools integrated with existing systems to allow adjustments to be made in real time, resulting in maximum production and minimal waste.

Environmental Benefits

Like an electrical grid, smart grids network millions of communications and scanning devices. The technology monitors energy consumption and significant data fluctuations from field equipment so that any abnormalities can be taken care of immediately without requiring human input. By incorporating data into smart grids, companies can respond to changes in power availability from alternative power sources as well as traditional sources, in order to keep power costs low and consistent.

Increasing Production

Managing a large, sprawling oilfield network is challenging. Keeping track of pipelines, production equipment, employees, pressure gauges and other metrics can become overwhelming. But, with the digitization of oil production in the field, and implementing a smart grid to manage it, employees can get real-time field visibility and collaboration, reducing guesswork and preventing potential problems.

With smart grids adjusting energy sources to meet needs, it is possible to predict energy shortages on site and adjust workloads to respond to peak energy demands, thus making extraction and production less expensive overall.

In a study from the Energy Exchange, a quarter of respondents said that the key to smart field success is increasing the recovery of oil and gas production, but 90% of respondents noted that data management is a problem area. Smart field technologies that streamline data input are a vital support component to oilfield success.

Process Optimization

Managing an oil and gas field requires a tremendous amount of resources and is both asset and data intensive. A typical oil well usually has tens of thousands of sensors to reliably track parameters such as pressure, flow, pipeline corrosion, storage tank levels, perimeter security and more. These instruments could generate up to 1 terabyte of data per day, which need to be distributed to corporate IT systems to be processed, analyzed and archived.

Successful smart grid implementation relies on a team gaining an understanding of all performance areas and bringing them together. As all the data and events across the company are integrated, it produces a birds-eye view of operations, enabling decision-makers to optimize the entire production cycle from end-to-end.

Smart grid technology allows the anticipation of problems and opportunities before they arise, leading to proactive decision-making. By seamlessly integrating real-time data streams from the field and running predictive analysis software, it allows oilfields to go beyond reacting to problems and into immediately identifying both opportunities and risks.

Smart grid technology is still fairly new, and there are many small companies in the field competing for market share. With so many available options, it is difficult to find the right vendor. A basic rule of thumb is that larger consultants offer more custom end-to-end solutions while smaller vendors offer turnkey, lower-cost solutions. However, as the industry matures, expect to see some exciting innovations coming down the line in the next few years.

The Benefits of Mining Automation

mining automationThe Benefits of Mining Automation

Making Mining Safer Through Automation

Human safety is one of the primary concerns in the mining industry today. Many industry players are now addressing safety issues by automating processes previously done by humans to help ensure the protection of workers.

Automation, or the use machines and other control systems to achieve tasks otherwise carried out by people, is becoming commonplace in mines around the world. Automation gives mines greater control over their production processes and, as a result, allows them to produce a higher quality finished product. Most importantly, automation is making mining safer for workers in a number of ways.

Safer Mining Through Better Oversight

Mines can be dangerous environments; poor air quality, confined spaces and lack of structural integrity are just a few examples of safety hazards faced by mine workers every day. However, there are a number of ways in which the use of automated processes can reduce or mitigate these dangers entirely.

Automating mining processes allows the mine environment as a whole to be more tightly monitored. In doing so, the previously mentioned hazards, such as air quality, can be assessed quickly and with a great degree of accuracy, if and when dangers to workers arise.

In addition, automation allows for the machines themselves to be monitored more closely for issues such as signs of wear and tear. These problems can then be diagnosed and resolved before they become potential safety hazards to human workers.

Environmentally Friendly Mining

The adverse effects of mines on their surrounding environments, such as water contamination and air pollution, are well documented and have been a contentious issue for the industry. However, the greater degree of control over the mining process offered by automation allows mines to assess their environmental impact more accurately.

By more closely controlling the production process, some environmental effects can be reduced or eliminated altogether. Limiting waste produced by the mining process and reducing emissions caused by the unneeded operation of equipment are just a few of the ways in which automated technology can help mines to become greener.

Fewer Hazards for Workers

When parts of the mining process are automated, fewer human workers are required. As a result, fewer workers are exposed to the potential hazards found in a mine. Automation also ensures that tasks are completed correctly and consistently every time. As a result, the “human error” factor caused by the incorrect operation of a machine or a lapse in attention can be eliminated.

In the past, single machines may have required multiple human operators, greatly increasing the chance of human error. However, by automating many of the same tasks, fewer operators are needed, the risk of injury is lessened and operation itself becomes much simpler.

Drones: A Versatile Safety Tool

Automated technology such as remote controlled drones and robots can be sent, in place of workers, into hazardous areas to assess safety hazards. Drones equipped with cameras can look for potential hazards such as cracks in rocks. Furthermore, these drones can be used to gain access to areas not easily accessible to humans, such as flooded or confined spaces.

Drones can also be used for emergency purposes. Robots can be used to find trapped workers in the case of tunnel collapses and in some cases, are designed to carry food and supplies to these people and even to transport casualties to safety.

Automated technology can serve the mining industry in many ways. Perhaps most importantly, automation allows mines to increase the safety of their employees. Whether by lessening a mine’s environmental impacts, simplifying the operation of machines or aiding in search and rescue operations, automation addresses the issue of worker safety in mines and helps to improve overall operations.

Understanding the Digital Oilfield

digital oilfieldUnderstanding the Digital Oilfield

It is inevitable that oilfields of the future will go digital. Already, we rely on the Internet and email for communication, drones for exploration, and automation to keep tasks safe. The question is, what will digitization mean for oilfield workers in the coming decade?

Plenty of oilfield support equipment can be digitized, providing oilfield workers real-time access to key hydrocarbon assets, field data, and trends.

Fiber optic pressure and temperature gauges enable sustained down-hole profiling with steady information flows. With a stream of 360-degree data from the field, a single well can generate more than 200 DVDs worth of data a day. Analyzing and harnessing that data is the work of digital petroleum engineers.


Going digital means saying goodbye to hand-made charts and Excel spreadsheets. Instead, data sets from the field can be integrated with engineering models in order to show information clearly. With digital integration, tools that IT workers have had for years can be applied to understanding how the oil field is functioning and where problems might sprout (before anything goes wrong). Live visualizations work in up to 4 dimensions, that is, sharing 3-dimensional perspective as they change in time.

Real-Time Drilling Decision Making

Live data streams from drilling sites can be harnessed to make better real world decisions. Already, the Real-Time Drilling Optimization Center makes use of this principle to offer constant surveillance of drilling sites by engineering experts. On schedules matching crews on rigs, drilling experts offer oilfield support by identifying key problems, signs, and data trends to improve safety and efficiency in the field. Similar decision-making support centers for production, reservoirs, and various drilling and extraction processes are already in the works worldwide.

Production Surveillance

Digital oilfield technologies aren’t limited to data streams and decision making. Independent advanced alarm systems can also be a key tool for oilfield management. With production surveillance equipment, it becomes possible to optimize parts of the supply chain to prevent bottlenecks and road blocks. This helps optimize the entire production system.

Remote Communications

Remote communications through cellular and internet networks are already a standby of oilfield production. However, to fully maximize the potential of the digital oilfield, redundant communications networks are important. As the oilfield and decision-making data become more and more linked, it becomes more vital that no link in the communication chain is broken down. Wired networks can be protected with tools like Turbo Ring or Turbo Chain, while wireless networks should have two independent channels.

Integration for Greater Field Efficiency

The digital oilfield is a highly integrated decision making space. Integrated operations is the formal name for work processes in oilfield extraction and information technology working together. Effective integrated operations are the key to the success of a digital oilfield. The ability to work with a wide variety of individuals with varying areas of expertise is absolutely necessary for the success of new surveillance and decision making models.

For this reason, streamlining integrated operations is a key phase of building a digital oilfield environment. Decision making trees will likely need to be re-evaluated to reflect new streams of data and expertise. It’s a lot of work, but greater integration means greater efficiency in the field.

Relying Too Much on Technology

As technology becomes more integrated with oil field production and distribution – both upstream and downstream, that critical infrastructure becomes an easy target for threatening attacks. Oil companies must set up processes, people and policies that will prevent system-wide failures and defend against potential attacks. The best step for prevention is preparation and training. Having a team of trained professionals who can monitor and provide protection from any breach will be essential to maintain a smoothly running operation.

Although there may be risks to digitizing oilfield operations, the benefits are many, including increased ROI, improved decision-making, and the ability to enable optimal business results and value. As oilfield engineers have access to timely information, the executive teams can focus on generating business value.

Smartphones Monitoring Mining Equipment

smartphones monitoring mining equipmentUsing Smartphones to Monitor Vibrations in Mining Equipment

Mining is a massive, highly competitive industry with many operations running twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Such continuous operations are dependent on large, complex machines that are expensive to repair and expensive to replace. In this industry, an organization’s ability to minimize downtime can provide a substantial competitive advantage.

To decrease operational downtime many mining companies have scheduled preventative maintenance. Because preventing a malfunction is cheaper than repairing one, the impact of preventative measures to the bottom line is often substantial.

However, scheduled preventative maintenance also has its limits, with some studies suggesting that as much as 30% provide no benefit, and an additional 30% actually decrease performance. With such programs costing nearly 50% of an organization’s operating costs, even a relatively small improvement could provide a significant benefit to the bottom line.

Condition-based maintenance is the idea that machinery can be monitored—primarily but not exclusively for vibration—and once a baseline has been determined, variations highlighted for human investigation. Such programs attempt to replace parts after they have begun to hamper performance, but before an outright failure.

Condition-based maintenance programs are, however, expensive. Mining operations are seldom small, but neither are they entirely stationary. The sheer number of sensors is large, and the effort to continuously monitor them and adjust their locations every time the machinery is moved is significant.

Enter the ubiquitous smartphone, in the form of smartphones monitoring mining equipment. Vibration monitoring via smartphone based systems offer the potential to dramatically reduce the costs of condition-based maintenance and provide the same cost saving measures.

In the ideal, a technician could take a single sensor on a predetermined route, attaching the sensor to places on the machinery that need to be monitored, then removing it and moving to another location, and another, and so on. Monitoring doesn’t have to take place twenty-four hours a day to be effective. The sensor would gather data and communicate it to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. The smartphone would then communicate with the Wi-Fi enabled cloud to compare the new data to the baseline for that location. If the new reading is not in line with the baseline, the technician could potentially perform any number of actions ranging from replacing the part immediately to notifying the appropriate department to order a replacement part.

The advantages over a full-scale condition-based maintenance program are many. Primarily, fewer sensors are required and parts aren’t replaced until their useful life is exhausted. If desired, the smartphone application could even be used to reduce technician training time and the likelihood of error, by displaying a video of how to replace any part in question.

The implementation of a program of this nature would not be cheap, but with the costs of maintenance being high, and the costs of downtime being higher, such a system would offer enormous savings potential, proving it’s worth.

Robotic Welding

robotic weldingThings to Know About Robotic Welding in Metal Fabrication Shops

Robotic welding tools have many advantages — they cut staffing costs, speed up production, and can be built to scale for your projects. By taking humans out of the equation, many welding projects see significant savings, but robots aren’t right for every workplace.

Welding cells are a lot less expensive than they were a decade ago, and they work better than they first did. Still, there remains much to consider in determining if a robotic welding system is right for you.

Potential Savings

Robotic welding costs less in energy and labour than traditional welding, and this helps the installations pay for themselves over time. The weld that a robot uses can be bought in bulk, and might save you even more money.

Robots aren’t prone to the same errors humans are, so they don’t tend to over weld. An 1/8th of an inch too much weld bead may not seem like much to a human welder, but it can double filler metal costs.

All these savings add up, and to calculate whether robotic welding is the right choice for you, it helps to calculate your long-term savings. If you don’t feel confident to do the calculations, go to a robotic welding integrator or an OEM for guidance.

Potential Challenges

If your business works with several different complex parts in your welding projects, robotic welding might not be the right choice for you, since humans can still handle these problems more accurately than robots. On the other hand, robotic welders work best with repeatable part designs, speeding up production significantly on high-volume products.

Depending on your needs, you can work to create consistent flow in your welding projects to make best use of robotic cells and keep your business moving.

Many first time users are also concerned that their robot will be difficult to program, but that is an unnecessary concern. Most robotic welding systems use simple visual interactive programs, making them easy to use for most knowledgeable workers.

Safety Concerns

Modern robotic welding cells are fully automated but still need human interaction to keep operations running smoothly.

In order to keep human operators safe, many robotic welding machines come equipped with an interlocked door, which the operator must open to access the machinery. While these are a great safety feature, opening doors takes time; so high-productivity cells might need an alternative safety solution.

The past few years have seen the introduction of new robotic standards in the U.S. that focus on maintaining safety (and productivity) in the workplace. For a full understanding, check in with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the American National Standards Institute, or the International Organization for Standardization, which all publish information for manufacturers.

These standards come with certain working advantages, including new safety regulations that allow programmable safety controls. That means designers can build smaller robotic cells, relying on safety controls for precaution rather than building cells that would cover any possible motion. The new standards also allow people to load and unload robots and work with the robot welders more closely.

As standards keep changing, the important thing is to keep up to date. Thankfully, many of these new standards are built to help you run your business more smoothly.

The Sheet Metal Stamping Process: How Does it Work?

sheet metal stamping processHow Does the Sheet Metal Stamping Process Work?

Sheet metal is one of the strongest materials that can still be easily shaped and cut. Plus, sheet metal is recyclable, which drives costs down.

Metal stamping is used to produce parts in many industries. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) most often make use of sheet metal stamping to make their parts where casting would be too expensive. It’s inexpensive and efficient, but it’s likely you don’t really know how it works.

First, the basics.

Some OEMs produce their own stamped sheet metal on site, while others outsource to Tier 1 suppliers. It is these suppliers that build the dies for stamping down the line.

Sheet metal itself is usually made of steel, but stamping can be done with all kinds of metals, including golds and advanced super-alloys.

Basically, sheet metal stamping involves a flat metal sheet, also known as a blank, being pressed between a die and a punch to get the desired shape.

  • Blank – the portion of the sheet metal which is punched through the die
  • Die – defines the outside shape of the part
  • Punch – defines the inside shape of the part
  • Ram – moving component which presses down on the metal with upper die pattern
  • Bolster Plate – stationary lower part of the die
  • Blank Holder – holds the blank for control during stamping

These parts form the press, the ultimate tool of stamping sheet metal.

Of these, the die is probably the most complicated, and are often designed with inserts to produce variations on standard presses. You’ve probably seen dies used to make novelty souvenir coins — dies can be used for all kinds of processes and materials.  They can be small enough to build microelectronics or large enough to cut out sides of busses.

Presses can be built as single stage or progressive blanking tools.

  • Single Stage Press – stamping operations are done before or after the blanking
  • Progressive Blanking Press Tools – stamping is done by the machine prior to blanking, so the complete component is punched out throughout the blanking die.

As blanks are punched out of the sheet metal, the come through the die, which is built with a slight angle so that blanks don’t get stuck inside the die. Accidental hold ups can damage the machine, so it’s important that the stamping and blanking process continues smoothly.

Sheet metal presses are powerful machines. It takes about 71 tonnes of pressure to cut a 10 inch circle out of .125 inch sheet metal. Modern presses range from 10 to 50,000 tonnes of force.

Several people are involved in the stamping process:

  • Machinist – cuts die components to correct dimensions
  • Diemaker – tests die for consistency and assembles stamping tool
  • Maintenance Technician – repairs and maintains stamping dies, correcting any problems.

After stamping, some parts require further work in a process known as deep drawing. In deep drawing, a flat blank is drawn slowly over a forming die to achieve its shape. Next, excess material must be cut from the deep drawn metal. Finally, the metal might need to be bent, flanged

Drones in Mining

drones in miningDrones in Mining: The Future of the Mining Industry?

The future is here, and the drones are driving.

In Australia, hundreds of driverless trucks haul iron ore from mines. At the same time, company headquarters use touch screens to monitor operations worldwide.

Drones are capable of exploring areas no human could safely reach. They come equipped with scanning and analysis technology, lower costs, and robotic accuracy. And they are transforming the mining industry.

In many cases, using drones keeps employees safer, by saving them from dangerous and sometimes mind-numbing tasks. By assigning monotonous work to robotic drones, companies can use their personnel resources for more important projects.


In Canada, many companies use drones or robotized drilling rigs to blast ore free. Human workers are responsible for planning the dig, and loading instructions to the drilling rig. An operator stands by to make sure nothing goes wrong, but the drilling is all automated.

Long-hole drills take the place of rote work, drilling rod-to-rod without the need for human involvement. It saves an operator the dull business of loading a new rod over and over, with little break in their schedule.

Cleanup Operations

One of the earliest forays of automated robots into the mining industry was to help clean up the highly-irradiated Three Mile Island. To keep people away from the high levels of radiation, recovery teams sent in robots equipped with video feeds and the ability to bring back valuable information in the form of core samples. Other robots handled cleaning, tearing apart walls and scrubbing debris.

Shotcrete Sprayers

Not yet completely automated, shotcrete sprayers spray their reinforcing concrete without human interaction. A human operator is still needed to get the spray boom into mines, but from there, the sprayer works automatically to ensure an even coating on the mine walls. Where there are human limitations in terms of working angles and tough-to-reach spots, robotic sprayers have much greater flexibility.


Driverless trucks take a boring job and automate it. Your average haul truck driver might work 12 hour days driving back and forth, and as they tire and get bored, they become more likely to be involved in an accident. Robots stay alert all day long, which can save lives.

So far, only a tiny fraction of hauling trucks worldwide are drone-operated, and Canadian and American mines have yet to try out driverless trucks.

One hesitation is due to the cost, as a new automated hauler is 3 to 5 million dollars to purchase. When the alternative is employees who have relatively cheap wages, the switch is hard to make. But in certain countries, like Australia, driverless trucks are replacing their human-driven counterparts quickly. Australian Rio Tinto’s driverless trucks have already moved 140 million tonnes of material.


An obvious use for mining drones is in surveying; using lightweight unmanned aircraft to get the most out of land.

One reason drones are used in surveying is because they’re about 90% less expensive than using a manned helicopter. Another reason is their ability to map a variety of terrain by flying close to the ground and gathering more data than workers in helicopters are able to. Additionally, drones are capable of surveying even in cloudy conditions so no time is wasted waiting for particular weather conditions.


Green Mining

Green MiningGreen Mining

Greener Mining Innovations

Researchers and businesses alike are working to transform North American mining into a cleaner, greener industry. It’s an industry that affects ordinary people much more than they usually recognize: mining projects provide core materials for batteries, phones, and even tooth fillings.

Nevertheless, mining has earned a reputation as a dirty business that is bad for the environment and even dangerous. But mining is in the middle of a transformation — a greener future is already on its way, thanks to a range of new innovations.

Putting Money into Research

Ahead of everything else, major research and development commitments by companies and granting agencies are pushing the field of green mining forwards. It’s key for any mining company considering streamlining and greening their production to invest in development — change, after all, is expensive, and the best solutions work within existing systems.

Natural Resources Canada (NRC) is backing cleaner mining at a national level, and established CanmetMining is conducting research and development on extraction processes and developing technologies towards the goal of creating long-term sustainable options.

Building Small

One new innovation in mining is the introduction of low-impact drilling rigs in remote areas. Energold, a Vancouver company, currently uses 100 of these rigs, which are made up of smaller-than-usual pieces, and can be transported in parts by hand and pack mule.

The resulting rigs are only about four by four meters, or about 4% the size of a standard rig. The reduced environmental impact of these rigs and their increased safety makes them an attractive green mining option.

Sonic Drilling

Faster drilling with no drilling muds is an ideal situation, and one that is a recent reality. An innovative process run out of Chilliwack, BC called sonic drilling uses mechanical oscillation in the drill head to drill up to three times faster than a conventional drill. It’s been used to mine diamonds, gold, lithium, and more. And the system uses absolutely no drilling fluids, which vastly reduces the method’s environmental impact.

Sorting Ore, Just Better than Before

No matter what kind of mine, it’s the mill that uses both water and energy. Cleaning up that process is a promising way to cut mining waste.

MineSense, a new technology out of Vancouver, BC, applies high-frequency electromagnetic spectroscopy to get real-time mineral content measurement in mining shovels. That way, useless material can be rejected immediately, and recovery at the mill is a streamlined and enhanced process. Overall, sensor-based sorting like that offered by MineSense offers big savings in energy, water, and chemical requirements for both extraction and evaluation in the mining process.

Reclaiming Lands

Restoring land after a mine closes its doors has traditionally been a long and difficult process, and if it isn’t done right, the area can become a risk for the surrounding communities and environment. That’s why a key green trend in mining has been increased attention to environmental rehabilitation, from soil to trees.

In New Zealand, a coal mining company called Solid Energy has pioneered a new way to rehabilitate old mining sites using municipal bio-solid waste. The innovation helps keep cities clean, and the bio-solids provide nutrient-rich organic matter. With the nutrient boost, plants are able to grow back quickly, simultaneously reducing the damage sediment run-off might otherwise cause.