Twenty-first century mining is a far cry from the Hollywood image of pickaxes in caves; it uses modern technologies to detect, analyze, and harvest valuable substances from the earth. Mines also deploy cutting-edge technology to help advance the safety of everyone at the mine site.
So, when Nutrien, the world’s largest producer of crop inputs, services, and solutions was seeking some out-of-the-box solutions for a safety technology at their Saskatchewan potash mines, they turned to Mitacs to access top research talent.
The resulting collaboration with the University of Regina produced a new computer algorithm that more accurately identifies potential hazards in the roof of a mined-out room—giving workers advanced notice so that they can deploy safety protocols in a timely manner.
Nutrien incorporated the algorithm into a prototype ground-penetrating radar imaging system on continuous mining machines and is in the planning stages for full implementation; the sophisticated equipment will be used in potash mines around the province.
The collaboration has been such a success, that Nutrien is looking to expand their partnership with the university to further advance the technology. The safety advancements will be shared with the potash mining industry across Saskatchewan. In 2021, Nutrien hired a student who was funded by the Mitacs program and worked on this project to join its Geosciences and Land department.
Craig Funk, director of geoservices & land at Nutrien, explains: “Partnering with Mitacs and the University of Regina has given us access to top talent and new ideas that will enhance our safety technologies used at Nutrien mines. We believe that building relationships with universities contributes to our industry-leading safety performance and Mitacs makes it seamless for everyone involved. In the mining industry, we have ongoing dialogue on our safety advancements, so we will ensure that this technology is available to other potash companies as well.”
Mitacs’s programs receive funding from multiple partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to foster innovation and economic growth throughout the country.
Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: .ac.s1634721471catim1634721471@DB1634721471