Drones are the Latest Tech Powering Canada’s Mining Industry

One of the most interesting aspects of technology’s rapid evolution is how vastly different industries can pick up on the newest advancements—even though they may seem like the sectors further from the “cutting-edge” of tech.

Example number one is the mining industry, and Vancouver’s Teck Resources is the latest company to adopt a new form of technology to enhance their businesses practices. Teck has announced they are enlisting drone company Skycatch and their High Precision Package (HPP) for aerial surveying at a number of their mining operations, including their Line Creek steelmaking coal operation in British Columbia’s Elk Valley region and their Red Dog Operations in northwest Alaska.

“Technology and innovation is transforming the mining industry,” said Chris Stannell, a Teck Resources spokesperson. “At Teck, we’re embracing that transformation and using it to make our operations more productive, sustainable and safe. Our focus is on developing and deploying those technologies and ideas that have the greatest potential to enhance productivity, safety, sustainability and growth across our company.”

Surveying land for mining can be a dangerous and time-intensive process, especially in the unforgiving landscapes of northern B.C. and Alaska. High winds, dramatic temperature changes, and rugged terrain make it difficult for even the most well-trained surveyors to return reliable data. Teck and Skycatch can work together to launch UAVs and gather information including sub-five-centimeter georeferenced topographic maps as well as on-the-fly volume calculations. This data can be shared back to Teck so they can see the progress of a site in real-time.

Drones can also be used to reach land that was simply inaccessible for previous surveying methods to reach and deliver survey-grade images accessible from a computer or smartphone.

“Customers like Teck are setting new standards in the mining industry by implementing tools that support their mission of increased safety and efficiency,” said Christian Sanz, founder and CEO of Skycatch.

Teck is using a multitude of new technologies to help with their mining and surveying work, including shovel-mounted sensors, machine learning to identify maintenance issues, and remote dozers and drills. Other newer technology trends are constantly being applied to mining—late last year, Goldcorp formed a historic exploration partnership with IBM Watson to better identify mining targets.