With the help of a $750,000 investment from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, CEMI is setting up the Mining Observatory Data Control Centre (MODCC) in the SNOLAB surface building at Vale's Creighton Mine.
Damien Duff, vice-president of geoscience and geotechnical research and development at CEMI, explains that most mine equipment – everything from load haul dump machines to ventilation systems – already contains sophisticated sensors.
There's also sensors in the rock itself collecting data about seismicity.
MODCC will harness this information so that mines can be operated or designed differently to maximize safety and efficiency, he said.
“So if we get that data collected, integrated and then analyzed through some kind of sophisticated data analysis and then a sharing process, imagine the value we can derive from it,” Duff said.
A press release from the province said MODCC's work will also accelerate mining discoveries and enable the mining of deeper deposits.
For now, CEMI will hire one person to operate the lab, although the project will receive support from SNOLAB's staff, who have expertise in processing large amounts of complex data.
Within the next few years, MODCC will likely employ about seven or eight people, he said.
SNOLAB director Nigel Smith said although his organization is dedicated to the study of particle physics, it's essentially an innovation centre.
“So it's a natural connection for us to look to other innovation groups like CEMI and say 'OK, is there anything we can do to support these guys, and is there anything they can do to support us?'”
Smith said the partnership is good for SNOLAB, too, as part of the NOHFC grant will go towards upgrading his organization's surface facility.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “It's wonderful to see a new research team coming to SNOLAB to utilize our expertise and resources.”
Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, who made the funding announcement Oct. 11 on behalf of the province, said because both CEMI and SNOLAB have international reach, any discoveries made through this project will have worldwide ramifications.
It'll also be good for the economy, the former Minister of Northern Development and Mines said.
“It not only improves efficiency and safety, but the collaborative approach also creates opportunity through data interpretation that wasn't there,” he said.
“When that data interpretation turns into concrete projects, that's where job creation comes in and that's where the economic fibre of any community — including Sudbury — grows.”