Vale COO says Sudbury’s mining future is bright if technology is embraced

Vale’s Chief Operating Officer says Sudbury is poised to become the global digital hub for underground mining.

Ricus Grimbeek says he’s “super excited” about the city’s future.

He says the global mining industry is in the midst of significant technological transformation and we need to be moving right alone with it.

He spoke this week at the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce about his vision for creating a future with the resources and expertise that exists in the region.

Grimbeek is in charge of the North Atlantic Operations and Asian Refineries, based out of Sudbury.

“I see this as a once in a generation opportunity and we have to jump in and grab it with both arms.”

He says with new technology there is more real time data on what is happening.

Beyond Digital Transformation mining conference to return to Sudbury
Two major Sudbury mining companies working together to explore Nickel Rim South
Superstack dismantling will begin in 2020, Vale says
He says he is also involving workers in the process to come up with ideas to make tasks better.

Recently workers at the smelter designed and built a small tool to extract very difficult parts from the smelter that in the past were very labour intensive to retrieve.

“All the risk of, from a safety perspective, working inside and hammering things out with big, big hammers, now that is gone,” says Grimbeek.

There will be very different jobs in the future because of technology, acknowledges Grimbeek. For instance now the industry is able to remotely operate equipment and in some cases automate equipment.

Grimbeek says a big part of the future will mean very different jobs. It may mean an operators job is gone underground, but there will be plenty of new jobs needed above ground.

He says they will need the new technology because the demand for nickel, copper and cobalt is increasing.

“The demand for copper is going to be massive, the demand for nickel is going to be massive, the demand for cobalt is really, really big.”

He says one of the biggest uses of cobalt and nickel is in batteries. Copper is also needed for electric cars and the way people are building copper infrastructure to transmit power.?

Grimbeek says there are also only a few places in the world that produce cobalt and Sudbury is one of them.