The new faces of mining
Developing sustainable projects for the next generation of mining exploration
From new technology to opportunities to working with Indigenous communities, Proactive spoke to four millennials about developing sustainable projects for the next generation of mining exploration
- Anne Turner, Executive Director, Yukon Mining Alliance
- James Rogers, President and Director, Global UAV Technologies; President and Director, Longford Exploration Services
- Angela Johnson, Corporate Social Responsibility, SSR Mining
- Shauntese Constantinoff, Senior External Project Relations Advisor, New Gold
To the outside eye, mining is often seen as an ossified industry, with visions of backhoes digging and drills turning.
But that’s not the whole picture. And the picture is evolving quickly thanks to millennials.
There are a host of millennials behind the scenes influencing change: enabling the industry to be more efficient and sustainable, alongside working with local Indigenous communities.
Proactive spoke to four millennials who are part of the wave of change.
How is new technology changing modes of work in both exploration and development?
JR: What we’re seeing is a trend towards safer, more efficient data collection. In particular, new technologies are being fostered by large corporations that have health and safety protocols that are far more robust than, say, a junior miner. I think that’s driving a lot of the technology and where it’s going. That’s not just about reducing cost but also reducing working hours in the field, such as data collection in inclement environments. Risk management is definitely one of the biggest drivers.
AJ: I think one of the biggest things I’ve seen in exploration is increased efficiency. So, even on our drills, the drill foreman has his iPad, and data that used to be captured on pen and paper in the field is now all streamlined and bluetoothed in real time.
AT: Low-impact technology, like droning, is critical, especially for early stage. If you’re in these areas and you’re not really sure what’s happening, it’s great to use low-impact tech and get that initial assessment. At the more advanced stage, you’re starting to see things like directional gyrodrilling, where you are able to send the gyroscope down the drill and get instant readings. This kind of tech is useful but costly. The tech is there. But it’s not always in the budget.
For people considering getting into the mining industry, what career opportunities are there? What are the best growth sectors from an employment perspective?
AJ: If I was to give anyone advice, I would say data analytics. I think that’s becoming huge in the mining industry as far as re-targeting, or looking at data for exploration projects, compiling data, or looking at data in a new way. That’s a new and exciting field.
JR: I agree that data analytics and data management are huge. Lessening impact is also important. When you consider coming into the industry, think about how you’re going to reduce the impact of your work. The use of drones is just one example.
AT: I think our industry needs to do a better job of communicating the benefits of working in the industry in our day-to-day lives and in our communities. We’re not communicating all the benefits of this new tech and safety. There’s a lot of room for people in social media, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and relationship-building. Anyone that can build a strong relationship will be able to have a strong hold in this industry.
SC: The opportunities in this industry are many, enabling people to provide for their families and support their communities in a substantial way. Communicating these opportunities and benefits is key.
Further to that, resource exploration and development must take into account local communities, such as First Nations, and any impact it may have. How do we do a better job of communicating the benefits from an employment perspective?
SC: I would say get out into the communities, hold information sessions, etc. so that people not only understand the impact, but the many benefits as well.
As an example, we helped facilitate an Indigenous-led Training and Employment Strategy with several of the local First Nation communities near the project I work on to get everyone better prepared for future opportunities and start to identify and address any barriers to employment.
AT: I think what you’re doing from a company perspective is incredible. We’re working on an initiative that will launch this spring, to go into communities to host a mining day. We’re also working to get mining-related curriculum into schools as well. Connecting with that age group of 5-18 is really important.
We’re also trying to work really closely with politicians and influencers. When you talk about it to media, about green technology and clean jobs, there’s this sentiment that mining doesn’t have that. The fact is you’re not getting clean tech without mining, as you need these minerals to come from safe, regulated parts of the world to truly have clean industries and products – like electric cars. Lastly, one of the things we forget to communicate is if you want to stay and work in or near your community, mining is going to be an option for high-paying, rewarding, growth careers.
SC: Having a local workforce, at the end of the day, in their own territories, can benefit an entire community. It is crucial to start learning about the communities and what is important to them at an early stage. It’s a good idea to find out where people’s skill levels are, having transferable skills is important too in a finite industry, and the potential to work with and train in local Indigenous communities could be one of the biggest assets for a project.
So where’s the gap?
JR: I feel like the biggest gap is the juniors, because they are jumping on and off of projects and there’s a short period of engagement. Or they go test the water with a 1000-meter drill program and expect to come back the next year with a fully funded drill program but it doesn’t happen.
How can we mitigate that? Sometimes these projects just aren’t feasible. Even if a junior is responsible and tries to engage the community, there is just a general fickle nature of the finance community around resources and the ability to advance a project.
AJ: On that point, that’s the challenge that we face as explorers, is that social chain of custody. We’re all told, engage early, engage often, continue engagement even when you’re not exploring. But it boils down to funds. This is a real challenge and it’s a real debate and topic we have to tackle in the industry.
I do think it’s getting more noticed. We’re talking about it far more.
What haven’t we talked about?
AJ: One thing I find interesting is governance, in terms of what investors are asking us to disclose. That’s a huge part of something that is changing, right as we speak. ESG, or governance scores, are becoming increasingly important for investors. Investors are now calling companies, asking about disclosures: from climate change to human rights policies. They’re asking for that. I had no idea a few years ago that this would become so important and is an evolving piece of the industry.
AT: One of the initiatives we just launched is Virtual Yukon, which is a virtual reality tour of the Yukon. We’re using it both as a CSR and engagement education tool as well as an investor tool. We’re going to be taking drones over most of the major communities and you’ll be able to visit different places. You can see some of the individual mining projects and companies can use it. We will also use it in the communities. Overall, using digital tools will be a huge asset to companies, investors and communities.