Malartic going from Canada's largest open pit to Canada's largest underground mine: Agnico Eagle CEO
Mining companies are leading the way among Canadian businesses in adopting advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, according to a new economic research report.
The Vancouver Economic Commission’s quarterly report, published this month, included a section looking at adoption of advanced technology across industries in Canada.
The report cited data collected by Statistics Canada in 2022 which found that 30.9 per cent of mining businesses had adopted some advanced technologies -- the highest adoption rate of any industry.
At the time, half of the implemented technologies complied with regulatory standards including sustainability, according to the repot.
Artificial intelligence (AI) was the main technology businesses chose to adopt, the report said, with about a third of businesses in natural resource extraction like mining and oil and gas applying the technology in some way.
“Almost one-third of surveyed businesses in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction used AI technologies,” the report read.
“Commonly cited reasons were to develop new or improved processes or operations as well as for process flexibility and cost reduction.”
AI technology has also helped companies make what have historically been dangerous jobs much safer, with automation sometimes eliminating the need for humans to be present at a mining site.
Some Canadian mining companies have publicly discussed how they apply AI in their operations.
Saskatoon-based Nutrien Ltd. — which has been working to develop tele-remote technology at its network of six potash mines in Saskatchewan — successfully mined an entire production wing at its underground Lanigan, Sask., site last fall without a single human setting foot in the area.
Using a combination of radar, cameras, advanced sensing systems and cutting-edge technologies powered by AI, Nutrien was able to operate one of its massive potash boring machines from a control room a few hundred metres away from the active mining face.
In Metro Vancouver, the adoption of advanced technologies in the mining industry may also be a response to labour shortages.
The report found that the total number of workers in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries remain below pre-pandemic levels.
Across all industries, the report noted that many businesses have still chosen not to adopt advanced technologies, including AI, for several reasons including a perceived low return on investment or long payback period.
Other roadblocks include challenges in recruiting skilled staff and difficulty integrating new tech with existing systems.
With files from The Canadian Press