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International mine-tech event returns to Sudbury

Second annual Beyond Digital Transformation conference will be bigger, say organizers
panel discussion
The inaugural Beyond Digital Transformation held last February included a panel discussion at the end of the conference involving guest speakers fielding questions from the audience and social media.

Advanced technology has been in the mining industry for years, but what's the best way to utilize it?

Partners in Achieving Change Excellence (PACE) is answering that question with its second annual Beyond Digital Transformation conference, Feb. 6 and 7 at the Steelworkers Hall in Sudbury.

The inaugural event, held last February, was a one-day affair. But it proved so popular, the coming instalment is being extended over two days with more featured guest speakers and a mine managers panel.

Event chair Glenn Thibeault said its popularity can be attributed to the nature of the conference itself. Not only does it showcase technological advancements, but it also allows like-minded people, working on similar projects, to exchange ideas.

“It's the only conference of its kind that gets rid of silos where planners and engineers are isolated,” he said. “We are bringing the smartest minds in mining together under one roof for two days.”

Digital technology is increasingly in demand by the industry for its ability to deliver real-time data between the surface and the face, allowing crews and companies to make quick decisions and keep tabs on the entire operation.

Last February's event featured speakers from mining supply companies hawking everything from drones to software to automation and telemetry. But the upcoming event's headliners will be a little different.

Organizers are still finalizing speakers, but Thibeault said they have confirmed Vale base metals COO Ricus Grimbeek; Ethan Hull, Barrick Gold Corporation's head of customer success; Carl Weatherall, executive director of the Canada Mining Innovation CouncilGoldcorp's chief surveyor Dave Poulin; and Chris Burgess, Yamana Gold's director of innovation and transformation.

One of the reasons the conference has been so popular is the health and safety aspect.

As mines go deeper, companies are facing the reality of having underground operations that are too deep and too inhospitable for humans to work in for extended periods.

Humans are still needed, but their skill set is changing. Today's miner needs more technical experience.

Many of the innovative technologies on display will involve artificial intelligence and automation in following the trend of having production jobs being performed remotely on surface.

And often, the technology that's used in the mining sector is transferred to other sectors, such as transportation and telecommunications.

“The mining industry is an innovator because a lot of these are tested in mines for their efficiency and safety,” Thibeault said.

As tickets are selling out fast, organizers are working on the logistics to have the event live-streamed for audiences in distant time zones, such as Australia and South America.

A portion of the proceeds generated by the event will go toward charities that the participants will choose.