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Sudbury conference will showcase mining's latest tech developments

Beyond Digital Transformation (BDT) will be held Feb. 5-6

The Beyond Digital Transformation (BDT) conference is important for raising awareness of new digital technology and innovation in mining, but it also has to go beyond that, according to the chair of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM).

“This conference is not about innovation. It’s about implementation," said Roy Slack, director of Cementation Americas.

“It means taking great ideas and turning them into reality and making them happen."

The event takes place at the Cambrian College eDome in Sudbury on Feb. 5-6, 2020, jointly hosted by Partners in Achieving Change Excellence (PACE) and CIM. This will be the third year for the conference, which brings together mining professionals from throughout Sudbury and across Northern Ontario.

In advance of the event, industry professionals recently participated in a panel discussion to address what they like about the conference and what they hope to get out of it.

Neil Milner, head of projects with KGHM in Sudbury, said in his career as a professional engineer he has seen many excellent ideas and new technology come to the fore, but things didn’t always work out.

“You know, in my experience, I watched them fail time and time again. For me, the real challenge wasn’t having the idea, because everyone’s got good ideas. It wasn’t about appliant technology because there’s a lot of different technologies to apply to," Milner said.

"It’s about how to change the culture of business where people accept the technology as a value-added tool and then turning that into value for the operation."

Patti Pegues, also a mining engineer and Vale’s mine planning manager for North Atlantic operations, said she is looking forward to the conference.

“We are going to focus on implementation, what is working, what are the challenges and what is successful,” said Pegues.

“In coming from operations, we’ve got our head down solving our own problems, and it’s nice to take this conscious break and learn what else is going on in the industry,” she added.

Neha Singh, the CEO of PACE, told the group one of the important aspects of the conference is the fact it will be live-streamed on the Orion Network, a dedicated high-speed, fibre-optic network that supports research, education and innovation in Ontario. She said this will allow students across Ontario to listen in and learn.

Milner remarked that it was the kind of thing he wished he had access to when he was a student. He recalled that some of the class notes he was provided with were old, even when he was in school, “ and the new technologies that were presented weren’t necessarily new anymore.”

He said being able to listen in on a professional mining technology conference would have been helpful.

“When I transitioned from school into the working environment I saw all manner of new technologies that were starting to be implemented or being entertained to be implemented in the industry and I felt left behind," he said.

"From a person who enjoys technology, it was an uncomfortable place for me."

Pegues also endorsed the idea of having the conference live-streamed for students if only to help the students get a truer understanding of the industry.

“It’s competitive right now. It’s competitive to get the attention of professionals, even if you’re enrolled in a mining program,” she said.

On the other hand, she noted, the live-streaming might help raise awareness to help attract younger people to the industry who might otherwise regard mining as less than modern.

“Mining can be seen still as tough, rough, dirty, and unsafe work,” she said.

She added that the BDT conference can show off some of the more exciting and cutting-edge developments in a way that would make the mining attractive to students.

“Mining is a really exciting place to be and I am not sure how much of that story is out there,” said Pegues.

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