Innovations that Matter to Mining in Saskatchewan
Ensuring that one of Saskatchewan’s most important economic sectors remains globally competitive is a driving force behind the International Minerals Innovation Institute. And it’s never been more important than today, with current prices of many metals and minerals testing the patience of companies and investors alike.
There is good reason to innovate – about 30,000 Saskatchewan jobs hang in the balance.
With a mandate to help Saskatchewan minerals companies remain globally competitive, the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII) is a unique partnership between industry, government, post-secondary education and research institutions.
Formed in 2012, the organization supports a world-class minerals industry in Saskatchewan by facilitating innovative industry education, training, research and resource development initiatives and partnerships. In December 2016, representatives of IMII’s six major mineral company members reaffirmed their commitment to the organization.
This industry-led and industry-driven organization is unique in Canada, with a focus on two primary areas: Education and Training (E&T) programs to address labour force needs in the sector, and Research and Development (R&D) projects to address industry’s top challenges and advance innovations that matter to mining. In 2017, IMII sponsored the mineral sector’s first ever open innovation challenge to increase the number of Indigenous people and women in the minerals industry and its supply chain and, in partnership with Innovation Enterprise at the University of Saskatchewan, jointly hosted AIMday (Academia Industry Meeting day) Minerals 2017 at Innovation Place, in a first-ever North American event that matched corporate needs for new knowledge with relevant academic expertise from the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Minerals and mining is a key contributor to Saskatchewan communities and the economy – in fact Saskatchewan is the largest producer of potash in the world, and the second largest producer of uranium, and the industry employs approximately 30,000 people. According to the Fraser Institute’s 2016 annual survey of mining executives, Saskatchewan was ranked as the top jurisdiction in the world.
There is tremendous opportunity for Saskatchewan’s mineral industry, but that potential does not come without challenges. Skilled labour and development of new technologies, processes and practices will be key to continued prosperity. To date, the IMII has used its funding from BHP, Cameco, K+S Potash Canada, Nutrien (formerly Agrium and PotashCorp), The Mosaic Company, and Innovation Saskatchewan to address these challenges through the following investments:
Research and Development
Since 2014, IMII has supported 5 R&D projects worth more than $4.5 million focusing on safety, environment, hydrogeology and corrosion research for the potash and uranium minerals industry. These projects have facilitated collaboration between Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina, Canadian Light Source and members of the six companies supporting the research and development projects.
Education & Training
Since 2013, $5.4 million has been committed to 10 E&T related projects, with a total budget of approximately $10 million. Key projects include:
- The development of mining options at the University of Saskatchewan. Three new faculty members were hired to deliver seven newly created mining options courses in Geological, Mechanical and Chemical engineering for undergraduate students in those disciplines with the College of Chemical Engineering.
- Funding for skills development training programs at Northlands College, Cumberland College, Parkland College, and Carlton Trail College have resulted in 274 students enrolled in new mining-related programs, including 53 women and 139 Indigenous people.
- The building of Northlands College Mine School, which included purchasing equipment simulators and refurbishing laboratories for enhanced teaching with state of the art methods for students in Saskatchewan’s North.
Building on Strengths
IMII remains committed to innovations that matter to mining. New funding models adopted in 2017 will support research into near-term commercialization and long-term transformative innovations, in addition to applied research. Demonstration of new products and beneficial processes to the minerals industry will also be supported, as well as education and training to enhance diversity inclusion in the workforce.
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