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Advancing mining and exploration data collection and sharing practices for the 21st century

Advancing mining and exploration data collection and sharing practices for the 21st century 

CEMI (the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation), miners, physicists, members of the SME (small to medium-size enterprise) community in the mining sector, as well as the federal and the Ontario governments, have decided to join forces and build the MODCC – the Mining Observatory Data Control Centre – a powerful user-driven, data-interpretation interface that searches, collects, filters and analyzes mining/exploration-related datasets.

For some time, CEMI has been developing a deeper understanding of how mining data can be best collected and utilized for research purposes as part of a large R&D program called SUMIT (Smart Underground Monitoring and Integrated Technologies for deep mining). This $6.7 million collaborative effort has, at its core, a need to ensure that geotechnical and geoscience data collected in mines by researchers using sensitive sensors and other forms of instrumentation can be analyzed and interpreted after man-made “noise” has been removed from the signals. Being able to filter noise out of datasets is critical to understanding what the data is really saying. Furthermore, being able to share this data among a diverse research community and, in turn, have the researchers themselves re-share the results of their individual efforts with each other has real value. The net result should be a more efficient and effective research effort with faster outputs back to industry. But, how could this be built? Who had the capability and the desire to be part of this effort? The answer came quite quickly, as it happens.

SNOLAB is an international physics research facility, also located in Sudbury, two kilometres deep within Vale’s Creighton mine.  The facility is helping to answer some of the world’s most fundamental science questions. It hosts ultra-sensitive particle physics and particle astrophysics experiments conducted by researchers from around the world, and knows a thing or two about big datasets and how to share them. SNOLAB also has interest in broadening its science base and demonstrating value to a wide stakeholder community.  Likewise, Mira Geoscience and Objectivity— two SMEs respectively from Montréal and Sudbury, specialize in creating software solutions for exploration and mining companies looking to improve their “bottom line.” Both were looking for ways to leverage their expertise.

SNOLAB and the SMEs are well known to CEMI. Dr. Nigel Smith, Executive Director of SNOLAB, sits on CEMI’s board while Mira Geoscience and Objectivity have both worked on other projects with CEMI in the past.

Coincidentally, both SMEs were already involved in separate projects, also with a focus on data management. Mira had been contracted to build the data integration capability at the front end of a large multi-stakeholder initiative called “Footprints” being led by CMIC (the Canada Mining Innovation Council), a federal- and private sector-funded organization.  Objectivity was doing something similar for Rio Tinto, a large global mining company with its global Underground Mine Construction Centre based at CEMI. The opportunity for a collaborative effort therefore presented itself.

As there is a clear recognition within the Canadian mining industry that a new era in collaboration is necessary to drive the industry forwards, all agreed to come together to find ways to avoid duplication of effort and complement each other’s efforts, with CEMI undertaking the coordination role.

Recently, this planned collaborative effort has received a big boost from the Ontario government’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund through an award of $750,000 towards a four-year $2.425 million plan to build a mining observatory data control centre (MODCC) located within a newly created space on the premises of SNOLAB.

MODCC will capitalize on existing data integration and sharing expertise at SNOLAB, Mira and Objectivity, and will be a powerful user-driven data-interpretation interface that searches, collects, filters and analyzes mining/exploration related datasets.

The result will be a data processing facility with accessibility and capability unlike anything currently available to mining/exploration companies and researchers anywhere in the world.

For more information on the MODCC visit

Damien Duff is the VP of Geoscience and Geotechnical R&D at the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI). Dr. Nigel Smith is the executive director of SNOLAB.

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