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How Aggregates, Mining and Landfill Operations Create Local Jobs

Turn on any news station or pick up any newspaper, and employment features in nearly every story. Jobs have been an especially pressing issue since the 2009 recession, and even where the economy has rebounded, governments, companies and employees alike continue to focus on the expansion of job opportunities and career paths throughout the country.

While political opinions abound as to the best way government can stimulate job growth, on the ground, facts and statistics demonstrate that job creation is, as Nick Hanauer notes, not a product of rhetoric. Instead, job creation is the result of planning, management and strategizing.

Work will always exist as long as human beings need food, water, shelter and energy to survive. Where resources are allocated and how tasks are planned and carried out, however, have a direct impact on how many work-hours — and thus how many people — are needed to reach business goals.

Aggregates, mining and landfill operations all have one thing in common when it comes to jobs: They tend to employ a large number of people locally, and they tend to impact the employment of others further afield.

Here, we take a closer look at the ways in which these industries are leveraging the skills and abilities of local workers.

tow truck

Local Work, Local Jobs

The digital revolution has changed our relationship to work in a number of fields. Automation has led thinkers like David Autor to ask whether automation will replace human labor completely, while those like Andrew McAfee attempt to predict the ways in which “jobs of the future” will differ from the work we’re familiar with today.

Unlike many of the jobs created in the past 20 years, jobs in aggregates, mining and waste management are site-specific: A mine or stockpile cannot be uploaded to the Internet and accessed anywhere in the world the way a document or spreadsheet can. These operations exist where the resources and space exist.

These jobs have changed in recent years as a result of technology: drones, site mapping and GPS tools are just a few of the possibilities open to site managers and staff that simply did not exist in the previous century. The local, physical, site-specific nature of these jobs, however, remains the same.

Why do local jobs matter? Consider the following points:

 

Local Jobs Build Communities

Local jobs are also a great way to maintain communities across generations, since they allow workers to stay near families and offer needed support. The wide range of entry-level jobs available in mines and quarries, as noted by InfoMine, also helps build and maintain communities by giving workers viable options beyond leaving for college or the big city.

Because mining, aggregates and landfill operations create multiple off-site jobs for every job filled on site, these employers also help to stimulate local economies and businesses. Many of the tasks these operations need to outsource are tasks that are also site-specific, such as transportation and equipment maintenance. Further, employees need locally available things like food, notes Stacy Mitchell at Independent Business.

 

Onsite Work Improves Communication

As global communication has become easier, work teams in many industries have spread out. They’re working from home, on the road or any place other than the same worksite.

Remote work has certain advantages, particularly in fields where being off-site or away from the office is often required. It produces a wide range of challenges, however, and the jury is still out as to the best way to coordinate communication and innovation when your team isn’t in the same space.

Locally based operations like mines, quarries and landfills often don’t have this problem. When workers have to be on-site to get the job done, navigating the latest technology or synchronizing schedules to ensure you catch someone before they clock out in a different time zone becomes a non-issue — making teams easier to lead and improving cooperation, as Jonathan Farrington notes.

 

Entrepreneurship and Innovation are Collaborative, Hands-On Processes

Mines, quarries and landfills provide nearly endless opportunities for innovation and creative solutions to problems, particularly when it comes to efficient management of resources and supply chains. To achieve the best gains in this area, however, a cohesive, well-managed team needs to have the daily contact that makes it possible for them to rely on one another.

“Working effectively as part of a team is incredibly important for output quality, morale and retention,” notes Edmond Lau, an engineer at Quora. Effective communication is only part of the task; workers also need to be able to rely on one another and must trust that when they see a better way to do a task, their idea will be taken seriously. In such an environment, innovation can easily put a worksite ahead of its competitors — and such environments are easier to generate when employees live and work locally.

metal worker teaching trainee on machine use

Job Multipliers: How One Direct Job Creates More Indirect Jobs

Mining, aggregates and landfill operations all directly employ workers. Labor is an essential part of these operations’ success, and while technology has made work more efficient in some ways, in others it has increased the demand for higher-level thinking, strategizing and problem-solving in site staff.

 

Putting a Number to That Multiplier

Research indicates that every position filled at a worksite doesn’t just employ the person who fills it: it also creates demand for additional tasks, which require additional workers to address. In short, as Therese Dunphy notes at Aggregates Manager, these jobs create jobs.

A study released in March 2017 of the aggregates industry found that each aggregates industry job supports four more jobs, often in the local economy. The study examined the national, state and county-level impacts of aggregates operations. At every level, aggregates operations created and maintained not only the working positions needed to run the operation itself, but jobs in shipping, quality control and other related industries, according to George Ford, the author of the study.

Mining has similar effects on local economies. Analysts at Sunrise Coal, LLC, studying data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, estimate that coal mining creates an additional 3.88 jobs in the broader economy for every individual employed at the mine itself. Meanwhile, Reshoring Initiative founder Harry Moser estimates that mining hasn’t finished producing jobs yet: Faster permitting, he estimates, would allow mines to add another 125,000 direct jobs and reduce trade deficits.

 

The ‘Spillover’ Effect That Indirectly Creates Jobs

Every job mining produces also creates jobs indirectly related to the operation of the mine itself. According to a report by the Canada-based Mining Facts, mining’s stimulation of the demand for related goods and services, including equipment, maintenance and other services results in additional jobs within local communities. Their study indicated that mining’s “spillover” effect is higher than in many under industries, particularly in locations where mines outsource tasks like transportation or equipment repair.

When it comes to creating new jobs through innovation, however, landfill operations remain at the forefront. The “zero waste” movement, in which landfill deposits are recycled, has the potential to produce 1.1 million jobs directly related to these recycling operations, according to a report prepared for the Natural Resources Defense Council by James Goldstein.

“Recycling activity can create over 10 times more jobs than disposal in landfills,” notes Nancey Green Leigh, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor who focuses on city and regional planning. She advocates treating landfills not as an end point for waste, but as a resource for raw materials. The idea has some similarities to the ways in which mines and quarries produce raw materials, suggesting that the “jobs multiplier” from landfills might be similar if recycling were made a priority.

The labor-intensive nature of recycling makes it a natural job creator, since many work-hours are required to recycle effectively, according to Rick LeBlanc at The Balance. When recycling is considered more broadly to include tasks like reuse and resale, its jobs impact may be even higher, creating as many as 2.3 million jobs, according to Harmony Enterprises.

Landfills in many areas already serve as points for the production of one important raw material: methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is also the primary constituent of natural gas. A white paper from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) estimates that landfills are one of the largest sources of human-made methane on the planet, creating 17.7 percent of the country’s methane emissions. The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) works to help landfills create and sell electricity and natural gas from these emissions, stimulating jobs and helping to protect local and global ecosystems.

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Why You Need Tech Literacy to Manage Stockpiles and Worksites Today

It’s not a stretch to say that in the past 30 years technology has revolutionized every industry and every job — including the management of stockpiles and worksites. A great deal of the work that was done on paper only a few years ago is now done digitally, and managers today regularly use tools that simply did not exist 10 or 20 years ago.

To understand the tools necessary to the job, managers need a basic level of tech literacy. Reaching beyond the basics, however, can have profound benefits for your worksite, your team and your career. Here’s how.

 

What Do We Mean By ‘Tech Literacy?’

Broadly speaking, tech literacy is the ability to select and use the right tech tool for the job at hand, according to Caitrin Blake of Concordia University Nebraska. Tech literacy operates in the realms of problem-solving, communication and the evaluation and analysis of information.

Tech literacy helps both students and professionals function more efficiently in today’s tech-saturated workplace. It also improves decision-making, both by offering opportunities to gather more information and by providing more tools for analyzing that information.

In addition, the demand for technologically literate professionals in every industry is growing. A report by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute estimates that jobs in tech-heavy fields will expand by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020 — and that 95 percent of these job postings will demand extensive tech literacy as demonstrated by a college degree, a technical certification or other postsecondary education.

At The 74, Vince M. Bertram notes that the majority of people who use tech in their daily jobs aren’t employed in the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. They work as business development reps, or as journalists or as inventory managers.

Jobs that demand tech literacy pay better, too. Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman estimates that positions in which tech literacy is essential pay up to $22,000 per year more than jobs in which tech literacy is optional. Dishman also notes that one particular tech literacy skill — the ability to write code — is becoming ever more important.

At Bridge, Troy Anderson notes that “digital literacy is the new literacy,” and it’s essential for managers. Among other reasons tech literacy needs to be a top concern for anyone in stockpile, site or area management:

  • The right tech can help you spot problems and solve them before they cause major setbacks.
  • Good tech can lead to better customer service, with the ability to respond more effectively and efficiently to problems.
  • Tech makes measuring ROI and other factors easy — which makes managing them easier.
  • Tech literacy can help you articulate goals and set your team on a path to achieving them.

In short, tech literacy makes people who manage worksites more effective at their jobs and better able to carry out their work.

architect showing new house project with tablet

How Technology Is Used in Worksite Management

With the vast proliferation of technologies in every conceivable industry, tech literacy matters — but it’s only as valuable as a manager’s ability to apply it to the technology most commonly used in their industry. Here are several of the ways in which tech is employed in stockpile and area management.

 

Forecasting Demand

Humans are notorious for attempting to predict the future based on what we recall about the past. We’re also notorious for selective and patchy recall of past events, resulting in our future predictions often being less than reliable.

Analytics software, however, doesn’t suffer from these problems. The right analytics tools, paired with a strong system for collecting and storing data, can make stronger predictions about where materials, equipment, labor, and other resources will be needed and when, according to McKinsey & Company. This kind of insight can help managers ensure that their work proceeds more efficiently, maximizing revenues and protecting the productivity of their teams.

 

Eliminating Waste

Every stockpile manager is conscious of the waste problem. As SmartData Collective’s Rick Delgado notes, many companies lose product during the transportation process — and lose revenue along with it.

Analytics tools can help companies determine where the leaks are occurring and find ways to prevent them, protecting revenues and improving the shipment of stockpiled aggregates and other materials to their final destinations.

 

Detailed Data Collection

When it comes to detailed data collection, drones are edging out human survey teams in a number of industries and applications, from stockpile management to crisis response in the wake of natural disasters. Drones can travel places humans can’t, Kristin Musulin at Waste Dive argues.

Drones can also gather more detailed information about topography, composition and other data points, making them more efficient at stockpile, site and area data collection than their human counterparts, notes Andrew Kahler of John Deere. Some drones can even be equipped with analysis software, so by the time they return to their operators, they’ve not only gathered more data than a human team would have, but they’ve crunched the numbers, as well.

 

Working More Efficiently

If stockpile managers ever had the luxury of sitting in their offices while their teams did the legwork, those days are long gone. Today, managers juggle a number of tasks, from keeping track of workers and equipment to meeting complex project deadlines. Often, these managers must stay on top of a site even if they’re not physically present.

Enter tech tools. Today’s mobile work environment has generated a wide range of apps and tools that can help worksite managers handle operations even if they’re not on the ground. Popular options include

  • GenieBelt, which helps worksite managers coordinate and complete projects;
  • APE Mobile, which manages construction site paperwork;
  • and BuildSourced, which combines QR code technology with a smartphone app to help teams keep track of equipment and materials during a large-scale operation.

 

Protecting Data From Attack

As ever-increasing quantities of data are created and stored online, companies become the focus of potential attacks from hackers worldwide who seek to exploit that information for their own uses. A 2015 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report estimated that the number of global cyberattacks on mining companies alone jumped from 3.4 million in 2009 to 42.8 million in 2014 — a span of just five years.

Unsurprisingly, tech tools are at the forefront of protecting this data from attack. Understanding the risks and the tools available to combat those risks are essential for any stockpile, site, or area manager.

 

Improving Communications

Like all managers, stockpile and site managers thrive on good communication. Communication is essential to ensuring everyone knows what they need to do in order to get the job done. Strong tech literacy skills can improve communication, ensuring that problems are addressed and work proceeds smoothly toward its goals.

Tech literacy is essential to good communication, journalism professor Aaron Chimbel says. “If we value clear writing and the ability to communicate clearly with people,” he writes in an article at MediaShift, “we should value teaching our students the basics of computer languages and digital communications.”

For stockpile and area managers, the value of good communication more than outweighs the effort required to improve the very tech literacy skills that will promote strong communication abilities.

manufacturing worker using digital tablet at work

Promoting Tech Literacy on Your Team

As tech literacy becomes essential to effective and efficient worksite management, increasing numbers of managers and executives are looking for ways to promote these key skills among members of their own teams. Here are three ways to do that, courtesy of members of the Forbes Technology Council:

 

Focus on Developing Problem-Solving Skills

As Cristina Dolan of the MIT Enterprise Forum NYC notes, you can’t create a technological solution to a problem — or implement the technologies you already have — until you can first clearly define the problem. Work on teaching teams to identify and explain problems before you turn to the tech.

 

Get Team Members Familiar With Coding

You don’t need to be a programming genius, but understanding the basics will help you understand what options are available and “talk shop” with the programmers who will ensure your tech tools do what you need them to do, notes Yocale’s Arash Asli. Understanding the basics of coding can also help you better articulate problems and explore solutions, ZipBooks’s Timothy Chaves says.

 

Learn From the Experts

“I don’t think everyone needs to code,” Chalmers Brown of Due says. “It’s good to stay tuned into the tech world by reading and engaging with tech experts.” Brown also recommends talking to developers and attending the occasional tech conference to learn more about how tech is being employed in the stockpile, mining and aggregates industries and how you can employ tech tools to solve worksite challenges.

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Aggregates 101: How Innovation in the Industry Affects Everyone

Without aggregates, like stone and sand, industry would grind to a halt — and so would the lifestyle we all take for granted. From our roads and bridges to roofing tiles, paint and even medicine, we need those raw materials.

And we need a lot of them.

According to Peckham Industries, a supplier of road construction materials in New York, every American demands more than 5,000 pounds of aggregates per year.

Developments in how these materials are sourced and used have been changing the aggregates industry. Reducing the industry’s environmental impact has been a big driver of change — that includes everything from quarry reclamation to how petroleum is stored (or even cleaned up during a spill).

New sustainable and environmentally friendly practices have been developed, too, such as recycled asphalt pavement. And there’s proven technology, Mark Kuhar at Rock Products reports, that converts mechanical force into electricity. This may one day turn road vibrations into a source of electricity.

Responsible environmental stewardship affects the average person in terms of cleaner breathing air to breathe, reclaimed parks to enjoy and even bringing animal species back from the brink of extinction. You may have seen the UK report by Sarah Fry of The Institute of Quarrying on the return of the bearded tit to the wetlands of Nottinghamshire, a development owned by the UK’s leading sustainable building materials group, Tarmac.

And other things are taking place, too, like industrial odor control, which is just as important to the quality of life for people living in the area.

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Odor Control

In a case study by Boss Tek, a dust and odor suppression equipment supplier in Illinois, authors note that traditional methods weren’t working at a Central Massachusetts soil remediation site.

Formerly the site of a manufactured gas plant, the 11-acre property was to hold the local transit authority’s fleet of buses. The area surrounding the site was residential, with a large park directly across the street.

The ground being broken contained a volatile organic compound, naphthalene, which has a bitter, chemical odor. The smell can be overwhelming in small quantities, so the usual management strategies were put into place: spraying the exposed areas with foam and covering storage piles with urethane sheeting. The perimeter fence line of the site was even misted with perfume spray in an attempt to mask any odors that wafted away.

Nothing worked, though, because the smell was not actually eliminated.

Enter Boss Tek with an air treatment agent solution. Safe for humans, plants and animals — and biodegrading in 36 hours — the chemical attaches to odor-causing molecules, alters their composition and eliminates the components that cause the smell.

Once the unit, an open-cylinder cannon designer that can be put into position using a pickup truck, was in use, the daily odor-related complaints from nearby residents stopped.

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Noise and Dust

It’s not just odor problems that plague those in proximity to worksites, quarries and pits.

Many residents oppose the actual location of quarries, which tend to be close to the communities where their products will be used. In fact, a Canadian survey showed more than half of those asked are against sand and gravel operations, when compared to other types of development projects including windmills, big box retail stores and bio-waste facilities, Alisha Hiyate at Canadian Mining Journal writes.

The aggregate sector is underappreciated by the public, Paul Allard, executive director of the British Columbia Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, tells Hiyate, and needs to do a better job of educating people as to how crucial the sector is to the good lives those people lead.

One way to educate is to be a good neighbor, and this is exemplified by the Alberta Sand and Gravel Association’s promotion of the 25-cent-per-ton levy collected by municipalities. The money goes to mitigating an operation’s impact on the local area and can also be used to help the community develop. Provinces nationwide have different levies, from 11.5 cents in Ontario to 53 cents in Quebec.

Eliminating or reducing irritants like noise and dust are other methods sure to help public perception. One Sandvik employee tells Hiyate that noise can be dampened by building a shelter around the machinery. He also tells her that the same thing can be done with respect to dust, using a component so that the dust is encapsulated and kept in a confined area.

Twice-weekly blasting wasn’t the issue for residents, some of whom live less than 300 yards away from a quarry outside of Toronto. Instead, it was the near-constant beeping noises from equipment backing up, which could be heard six days a week and up to 20 hours a day, that were causing complaints, reports Hiyate at CMJ. An easy fix is to change the sound, which in the plant’s new loader sounds like a loud squawk or bark. The modified sound is less bothersome to the neighbors, but still meets safety requirements.

 

The Future of Equipment in Aggregates Industry

Volvo is in the research and prototype stages of using electricity to power equipment, according to a report in Heavy Equipment Guide. Not only would the vehicles and machines (used in excavation, crushing and transport) increase fuel efficiency by as much as 50 percent, but they would also show a significant reduction in noise pollution over equipment in use today.

“This research project is a step towards transforming the quarry and aggregates industry,” Johan Sjöberg, technical specialist in site automation at Volvo CE, tells HEG.

“By using electricity instead of diesel to power construction equipment in a quarry, we have the potential to deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, environmental impact and cost-per-tonne. The electrification of construction equipment will produce cleaner, quieter and more efficient machines. This represents the future of our industry.”

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Professional Development for Site Managers: Resources to Bookmark

Companies expect a great deal from their area managers, their environmental managers, their engineers and their site managers.

Beyond managing people and resources, these professionals must find new ways to move the Earth while respecting safety standards and environmental concerns.

No one walks fresh out of college with those capabilities; those skills are developed and cultivated over time. If you’re searching for an opportunity to develop your own skills as a worksite manager, then have a look at the 20 options below.

 

Courses and Certifications That Can Improve Your Job Prospects

Step 1 in professional development is to refresh your skills through dedicated training. These courses below will give you marketable skills — and in some cases accredited certification — that will demonstrate to current (or future) employers how seriously you take your career.

 

The ABCEP’s Certification Program

The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals’ certification program is a career-long opportunity for professional development that demonstrates a clear commitment to learning. Certified professionals tend to have a least a decade of experience, and the credentials conform to ASTM International’s requirements for conducting Phase I Environmental Site Evaluations.

 

Caterpillar’s On-Site Manager Workshop

Industry giant Caterpillar has an excellent fatigue risk management workshop that runs just six to eight hours, and prepares site managers to manage teams more thoughtfully and knowledgeably. As much as this is a workshop on site safety — fatigue and distractions can have serious consequences — this is also a great program for building leadership skills.

 

Mine Safety and Health Administration

MSHA has an entire catalog of courses, seminars and training programs on making mining sites safer. Courses are available both online and at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in West Virginia.

 

Construction Health and Safety Technician Certification

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals’ CHST certification program gives health and safety professionals a leg up in finding jobs in that field. “In general, those who hold a BCSP credential are more likely to be hired, earn higher salaries, and receive more promotions and leadership assignments than their peers who do not hold the certification,” the organization says.

 

OSHA Certificate and Degree Programs

Likewise, having a degree or a certificate from OSHA is valuable for any health and safety professionals because those courses are the gold standards in the industry. You can take classes at one of several OSHA education centers or partner organizations across the country.

 

Alberta Construction Safety Association’s Courses

If you intend to work in Canada or already do, Your ACSA has courses every day across the province on the different aspects of worksite safety. Most courses can be completed in a day and will give your resume a nice boost if you’re trying to find work in Alberta’s booming mining and construction sectors.

 

ClickSafety’s OSHA 10-Hour Construction Course

ClickSafety offers an accredited online OSHA course that covers worker rights, employer responsibilities and what you need to do to file a complaint. Being up-to-date on OSHA standards will make you a valuable resource at any American job site.

 

EduMine’s Certificate in Mining Studies

The CMS that EduMine offers is designed to be a two-year program that brings together experts from the University of British Columbia, the University of Arizona, Imperial College London, Sauder School of Business and Simon Fraser University. All in all, it adds up to 160 hours of self-guided online study that will prepare you for a career in mining.

 

The Colorado School of Mines EMCIS Training Courses

The Colorado School of Mines has several safety training courses for the energy, mining and construction fields at its Western Mining Training Center. Courses include MSHA certification programs, mine rescue and emergency response programs, and supervisory leadership programs.

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Job Boards to Keep an Eye On

It never hurts to continuously be aware of new opportunities. Whether you’re looking for a new challenge, a new location or a higher salary, these job boards are a good place to start.

 

ConstructionJobs.com

ConstructionJobs.com is one of the oldest — it was founded in 2000 — and most reliable job boards for people who work in construction. There are hundreds of jobs listed at any moment, and the team there is good about pulling listings after a candidate has been found.

 

SWANA Career Center

Openings in the solid waste industry are noticeably fewer than in other industries, but The Solid Waste Association of North America does a good job of curating a relevant, up-to-date jobs board.

 

MiningOilAndGasJobs.com

MiningOilAndGasJobs usually features a few thousand job listings from across the world. Additionally, the site serves as a nice information resource with an industry blog and a handy guide to living and working in Australia, for anyone thinking of relocating Down Under.

 

Jobs 4 Mining

Jobs 4 Mining is a UK-based jobs board, but its listings cover the globe. Recruiters are notably active on this board, as well, so it’s worth uploading a resume even if you’re not actively looking for opportunities at the moment.

 

InfoMine’s Careers Page

The jobs board at InfoMine has nearly 8,000 worldwide listings at the time of writing, and the vacancies are relevant and up-to-date. On an average day, you can expect to find dozens if not hundreds of new listings.

mining

Conferences, Seminars and Events Worth Attending

Inevitably, your best professional opportunities will find you through sheer luck, usually by meeting the right person at the right time. Make your own luck by participating in and networking at these industry events.

 

CMAA’s 2017 Conference and Trade Show

The October CMAA conference in Washington, D.C. will connect more than 1,200 construction management professionals with opportunities to learn, share ideas and network. The 2016 conference was one of CMAA’s largest ever, so expect a great crowd this year.

 

The International Risk Management Institute Construction Risk Conference

IRMI’s Construction Risk Conference will take place November 2017 in Indianapolis. It brings together hundreds of contractors and construction professionals as well as risk management professionals to talk financial issues like insurance costs. This is a great opportunity to network with some of the biggest decision makers in American construction.

 

The Construction SuperConference

The 32nd Construction SuperConference will take place December 2017 in Las Vegas, and this is probably the best networking and education opportunity in the US for construction professionals during the winter months. Expect several dozen exhibitors plus some excellent education sessions on legal and compliance issues.

 

The 2018 NAEP Conference

The National Association of Environmental Professionals’ 2018 conference will take place in Tacoma, Washington, in March and will bring together global experts in climate change, water resources, planning and permitting, and several other issues. This is one of the top networking opportunities in the first half of the year for environmental managers.

 

The 2018 Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada Convention

Another one for Canadian mining professionals or anyone exploring opportunities in Canada. The March 2018 PDAC Convention in Toronto will bring together more than 1,000 exhibitors, a few thousand investors and nearly 25,000 attendees to talk mineral exploration. If you’re involved in mining up North, be there.

 

The Canadian Mining Expo

The Canadian Mining Expo Big Event took place at the end of May 2017, and saw more than 4,000 exhibitors come through to network and demo products at Northern Ontario’s biggest mining expo. Just about every mining company that has a footprint in this region was represented, so keep an eye out for information on the 2018 expo.

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Safety, Intel, Efficiency: 10 Reasons Drones Are a Must-Have for Stockpile Management

We’ve previously discussed some of the ways drone technology is revolutionizing heavy industry in general. Now, let’s zoom in on stockpile management because drones are completely changing how mining and aggregates companies operate.

This technology is providing new levels of business intelligence, creating operational efficiencies and making these companies better neighbors.

Here are 10 reasons any mining or aggregates company should look to drones for their stockpile measurements.

 

Drones Create a Path From a Reactive to a Proactive Way of Doing Business

Demand forecasting is probably the biggest opportunity for site managers.

By being able to fly quickly over a site, measure changes in stockpiles and render that into a 3D model, drones offer one of the best methods for estimating what client demands will look like in the future. Therefore, companies can anticipate demand rather than having to scramble to find ways to meet it.

Dr. Shane Buchanan, asphalt performance manager at Oldcastle Materials, tells Asphalt Magazine’s Mat Herron that this completely changes the way a business can be run — for the better.

“Aside from the proliferation of drones, Buchanan said he sees more companies emphasizing a demand forecast model, which can tell them how much material they will need for a client and adjust that forecast accordingly,” Herron writes. “Demand forecast helps ensure a company knows which aggregates it will need for a given time period, and that it can obtain them efficiently.”

 

They Provide Accurate Measurements and Predictive Models

Geomatics manager Stantton Pallister tells On-Site Magazine that the 3D models of construction projects that drone data can deliver have been a game-changer for both the company and its customers.

The models look impressive, sure, but having accurate measurements of aggregates down to the cubic meter means quantities of earth or gravel never get written off, and construction teams can bill for work completed precisely and progressively. “We’re more accurate, and this adds up to substantial savings,” Pallister says.

quarry

That Intel Will Only Get Better, Too

In May, Christina Cardoza at InterDrone reported on some deep-learning software that a company called Neurala was developing for autonomous systems such as self-driving cars and drones.

Massimiliano Versace, the company’s CEO, told Cardoza that the software is built upon the company’s understanding of neural networks, which mimic how the brain learns and retains information. With this kind of artificial intelligence in a drone, he says, the vehicle will be able to learn how to navigate around obstacles and scramble when it detects a situation in which it needs to provide visibility.

In other words, it won’t be long until your drone will detect when stockpile volumes have changed, and fly itself out to the pile for an up-to-date measurement.

 

National-Level Regulators Are Turning to Drones, Too

It’s not just companies that are embracing the benefits of aerial intelligence. Governments and industry regulators — who require site owners to have data calculations and verifications done by a third party — are embracing drones as an effective means of verifying stockpile volumes and site owner compliance.

As Sarah O’Brien-Smith at the law firm Hunt & Humphry notes, Australia’s Department of Mines and Petroleum has begun to deploy UAVs to monitor compliance with the country’s Mining Act of 1978.

“As operations often span hundreds of kilometres across remote landscapes, the key driver for the use of [UAVs] is gaining information efficiently and safely,” she writes.

 

Drone Manufacturers Are Doubling Down on Mining and Construction

Multi-rotor hobbyists may have been the initial drivers of drone ubiquity, but the companies that make the technology have recognized that the future of their industry is in commercial applications — and demand is hottest right now in the heavy industries.

As Jeremiah Karpowicz at Commercial UAV News points out, DJI’s release of the enterprise-level M200 drone, Parrot’s pivot toward commercial applications and Skyward’s acquisition by Verizon are all strong indicators that we should expect to see rapid innovation and new opportunities in our industry.

 

Drones Help Other On-Site Technology Work Together Better

The intel from drone data does more than just help site operators make better business decisions. It also helps the site operator’s entire fleet of tools talk to one another and work together more efficiently.

Caterpillar is already taking steps toward building a fleet of machines — drones plus other worksite vehicles — that can all share data among one another. At the time of writing, the company has a fleet of a half million connected machines.

“Our vision is that by enhancing our Cat Connect Technology and Services offerings, entire fleets and worksites — every machine, engine, truck, light tower, smart device, and drone — will eventually share data on one common Caterpillar technology platform and speak the same language,” Caterpillar CMO George Taylor tells Quick Base.

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Drones Help Mining Companies Be Better Neighbors

A big site with all of its operations can be disruptive to the people and animals that live nearby, and that’s often because site managers don’t have a complete picture of the needs and wants of these neighbors. Drone surveillance is changing that, BHP Billiton’s Frans Knox writes.

For example, in Western Australia the company’s drones are being deployed to map and record sites of cultural heritage for local Aboriginal communities.

“For me, the bigger picture is what this technology allows us to do that could never have been done before, and for us that means being able to share and preserve cultural heritage that might otherwise have been lost,” BHP Billiton Heritage Manager Daniel Bruckner tells Knox. “We’re now able to share all our footage with local Aboriginal groups, and they’re excited about that possibility.”

 

Drones Save Money and Time

Let’s go with the most obvious benefit first: Drones can go where people can’t (or shouldn’t), and they can do so more quickly and for far less money than a manned aircraft could.

So, sure, it was theoretically possible to perform aerial stockpile measurements in the past, but that aircraft required at least one person to fly it, the job would have taken a long time, and the measurements would not necessarily have been accurate without modern tools such as photogrammetry and mobile lidar.

Simply put, stockpile measurements taken this way are not a good use of time or money. “Without drones, these tasks might require hiring a plane or helicopter…” Skyward’s Annie Norris writes at sUAS News. “Drones provide the opportunity to offer these services at a more competitive rate, and with the bonus of gathering the data safely.”

 

They Make Work Verification Much Easier

Even in an office with 30 people, it’s hard to get visibility on how much work is getting done. Scale that to a worksite of acres upon acres, and verifying work is nearly impossible without an eye in the sky.

But verifying work is crucial for site managers who need to keep track of progress and check to ensure key milestones are hit, Hugh McFall writes:

“Drones have helped bridge this gap: many of our customers fly their site once per day, process their images into an orthomosaic, and then create an elevation map that can then be compared to the initial site plans as the project goes on. This helps document and monitor progress at important phases of the project, and enables more focused quality control.”

 

Those Efficiencies Will Be Needed as the Aggregates Industry Grows

As Persistence Market Research notes in its Global Market Study on Construction Aggregates: Industry Analysis and Forecast 2016-2024 report, global consumption of aggregates will grow from 43.3 billion metric tons to 69.2 billion metric tons over that eight-year span.

As that pie grows, so will competition for the various slices of it. The companies that walk their piles once a month will continue to lose ground to the companies that have real-time, to-the-cubic-meter volumetric data about their stockpiles.

images by: João Rocha, Mariusz Prusaczyk

Big Data Challenges: Turn Your Stockpile Data Into Business Intelligence

Accurate stockpile measurements are not option. They’re not a nice-to-have. They’re foundational to your business.

This is the driving mission behind why we use precision mobile lidar, drone mapping and 3D modeling technology when we offer full-service stockpile management.

And yet, all of this technology generates its own digital stockpiles of data. How does a mining company, for example, manage that particular stockpile? How does it ensure the data’s quality, and how does the company turn that information into real business results?

In this post, we’ll explore what top-performing companies do with their stockpile measurement data.

 

The Business Case for Granular Accuracy

Step 1 when working with data of any kind is to ensure you’re measuring with accuracy and precision.

That’s why each generation of drones, cameras and modeling software in our industry gets more and more precise. As Michael Schwartz, executive vice president and CMO at Eka Software Solutions points out, ground-based and drone-based stockpile surveys currently get area measurements down to the centimeter.

“Depending on the quality of the equipment, users can expect a variation of two centimeters or less,” Schwartz writes at Aggregates Business International. “With high-end cameras in place, the variation can go down to 1.5cm per pixel.

“This difference may appear small, but when replicated over a full-sized stockyard it can represent millions or even tens of millions in profit saved or loss avoided. With far greater accuracy in the resulting 3D models, drones can deliver accurate data that makes a significant contribution to minimizing variance in inventory allowances. Operators can therefore avoid inventory swings, alleviate any end-of-year write offs, and provide commodity traders a far more accurate picture on current availability and replenishment needs.”

Schwartz also touches on the speed aspect of drone technology, which is a business case in its own right, and one that we will explore further in a minute.

 

Powerful Tools Must Be In the Right Hands

First, it’s important to understand the business implications of these modern tools — and how using them incorrectly can create serious problems for your business. Lewis Graham, president and CTO of GeoCue Group, notes that site managers or pit owners who don’t take care to be ultra-precise when using these tools can get wildly inaccurate measurements.

And those are user errors. For example, each 1-inch of vertical error creates a volumetric error of about 134 cubic yards per acre,” says Jeremiah Karpowicz, who spoke to Graham for a piece at Commercial UAV News.

“Graham has seen end users buy a drone and a point cloud generation application and do this computation with no knowledge of referencing. They are then quite surprised at the huge difference between the number of truckloads of dirt taken from the site and their volume computation.”

 

Moving Beyond the Spreadsheet

Then, these numbers all need to live somewhere so they can be referenced and made sense of. For years, volumetric measurements haved lived in spreadsheets — either written ledgers or Excel files.

But as Commodities Now Editor Guy Isherwood notes, spreadsheets don’t do a good job of tracking tonnage, the stockpiled material’s quality or its value.

“Studies by independent academics show that as many as 94% of complex spreadsheets contain errors including input errors, logic errors, interface errors, and incorrect cell range errors,” he writes in a paper for Triple Point Technology.

“These errors, even significant ones, often go undetected because spreadsheets are usually created by non-programmers who don’t perform formal testing. Because of this, many mining companies using spreadsheets function without the knowledge that a problem even exists, giving them a completely inaccurate picture of day-to-day operations and affecting all aspects of the supply chain.

“Without the necessary data validation and control, errors spread throughout key corporate processes that control hundreds of millions of dollars of inventory, putting the entire company at significant operational risk.”

This is why modeling stockpiles in four dimensions — the fourth dimension accounts for changes over time — gives site operators a much clearer picture of their inventories.

sand

 

Automating Regular, Precise Measurements

Accuracy is only half of the business case, however. The other half is the efficiency created by technology such as drones.

When machines can be automated to fly over a site, then stockpile measurements are no longer bound by having the right people around who are available to walk piles and do geometry.

What’s more, a drone is exponentially faster at measuring a site than a person is. “State of the art drones powered with standard SLR cameras take hundreds of images of stockpiles in just a few hours, completing in one day what would typically take a piloted aircraft or individuals with hand scanners a week or more,” Dale Benton at Mining Global writes.

So now, site operators can take inventory with much greater regularity, which helps them create much more accurate budgetary forecasts and better business decisions.

“For us the biggest benefit [of drone-based measurements] we realized so far is the stockpile volumes,” says Iain Allen, senior manager of geographic information at Barrick Gold. “At most of our mines we don’t have enough available space to have separate stockpiles for different ore, so we need to know which ore is in each pile. The mill has to know what we’re sending so they can process it appropriately.

“If we get it wrong, it reduces our return on gold and that costs us money. A 3D model of a stockpile is extremely useful and it’s much faster than conventional survey techniques.”

mine

 

Preparing Your Data to Become Business Intelligence

Once you have your stockpile data readily available and in a format that’s useful in guiding decisions, then you can begin to harvest real business results from it.

 

First Things First: Know Your Business Objectives

The first step, however, is to clarify your business objectives. And if you are using a service provider for your stockpile measurements, make sure the provider is on board, too, Colin Snow writes at Dronelife.

“Before signing up with a drone data mapping or imaging service provider, make sure that provider is fully committed to understanding the use case and the industry vertical you serve,” he advises. “Not all do.

“Some providers have more experience in one industry vs. another. For example, they may promote the functionality to serve mining when in fact their core functionality is based on serving agriculture.”

 

Ensure You and Your Data Speak the Same Language

As our company president, Lauren Elmore, told attendees at AGG1 2016: “Just because ‘everything we do is in tonnage’ doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it.” Tonnage doesn’t tell you anything about a stockpile’s density, and a volume of one material will always weigh more or less than a volume of another material.

So, make sure your measurements are in volumetric terms of cubic yards or cubic meters.

 

Reconciling Your Inventory Figures

Inventory reconciliation can be a headache in any industry — exponentially so in mining and aggregates when you’re working with problematic data. But if you’ve taken care to measure accurately and you’ve cleaned the data to report volumetric numbers, you’ll be ready to properly analyze how much of your stockpile has moved relative to how much the balance sheet reports.

This is also a good time to ensure that your other measurement tools — your truck scales, for example — are calibrated as precisely as your volumetric measurement system.

Afterward, as we pointed out in an earlier blog post, you’ll need to remember to reconcile the fact that you’re measuring by volume, but you’re most likely selling inventory by weight.

As you introduce greater efficiency to your stockpile measurements, you’ll have more frequent counts and more opportunities to spot inconsistencies before they grow into bigger problems. After all, no one wants to write off inventory.

 

The Next Frontier: Real-Time Stockpile Management

The quality data companies are collecting today will eventually serve as the foundations for stockpile management systems that will track changes in real time and be available to anyone in the industry, no matter how big or small.

ABB Mining has an excellent paper on what this will look like through the implementation of stockyard management systems, or SMS.

“An SMS is an integrated part of the overall stockyard management and control system and it includes instrumentation, electrification and scope for automation of operator-controlled stockyard machines,” the paper reads.

“A SMS organizes the stockyard in real-time based on job definitions generated by production management. The SMS merges data on incoming material quantities with additional information such as quality data, ownership of material and localization and visualization aspects to provide a comprehensive picture. An ‘anti-collision system’ at the control level provides for safe operations.”

Accurate, real-time figures on how much stockpile inventory is moving will be the next step in the mining and aggregates industries forward.

images by: Pexels, Mariusz Prusaczyk, Sebastian Pichler

Women in Mining and Aggregates: 17 Leaders to Follow

It’s not a big secret that mining and aggregates tend to be male-dominated industries. Women are especially underrepresented in STEM fields.

And yet study after study after study has found a positive correlation between company performance and gender diversity, especially when women are fairly represented in positions of leadership.

So, we feel it’s necessary to take a moment to celebrate the women who are currently shaping the mining and aggregates industries with their knowledge, skills and hard work.

Their stories are especially important for any girls and young women reading right now. To those readers, know that there is a place for you in mining, in aggregates and in any industry where people show up to work with a hard hat.

Here are 17 women who have found success in such industries.

 

Dr. Kathy Altman, Roscoe Postle Associates

Kathy Altman, P.E., Ph.D., is RPA’s director of metallurgy and mineral processing as well as the company’s principal metallurgist, a role to which she brings more than 30 years of industry experience. That experience includes work as a consultant and in academia — Dr. Altman was an associate at the University of Nevada, Reno from 2005 to 2009.

 

Lynda Bloom, Analytical Solutions Ltd.

Lynda Bloom has been the president of consultancy Analytical Solutions Ltd. for more than 30 years, which makes her one of the foremost experts in Canada and around the world in mineral and geochemical exploration. She is one of the mining industry’s go-to people in Canada when a company needs guidance with the NI 43-101 standards of disclosure regulation compliance.

 

Laurie Brlas, Calpine Corporation

Laurie Brlas joined the board of directors at Calpine in August 2016, and she is a member of the corporation’s audit committee. Prior to that, she spent a decade and a half in executive-level roles at Newmont Mining Corporation, Cliffs Natural Resources and STERIS, the latter a healthcare products company.

 

Wanda Burget, Accord Resource Solutions

Wanda Burget is the owner and principal at Accord Resource Solutions, a consultancy that helps clients with a variety of challenges related to developing, conserving or using natural resources. Burget herself brings more than 35 years of experience with data management, mineral leasing at the federal level, compliance and policy, and sustainable development.

 

Ann Carpenter, Remote Energy Solutions

Ann Carpenter is the president and CEO at Remote Energy Solutions, a firm that helps its clients with questions related to energy supply, land use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the mining and extractive industries.

She is also founder, president, CEO and director at Osgood Mountains Gold, which explores and develops gold mining sites in Nevada.

 

Kristin Gaines, Millennium Bulk Terminals

Kristin Gaines joined Millennium Bulk Terminals in early 2011 and currently serves as the company’s vice president of environmental planning and services, which means she is the go-to person for compliance, permitting and remediation. She brings more than 25 years of experience to that role in remediation, environmental management and brownfield redevelopment, among others.

 

Dr. Diane Garrett, Oceana Gold

Diane R. Garrett, Ph.D., was appointed to Oceana Gold’s board in 2015 after more than 20 years in senior management and financial roles in the natural resources sector, including president and CEO of Romarco Minerals and vice president of corporate development at Dayton Mining Corporation.

Shortly after her appointment at Oceana Gold, she was also appointed president, CEO and director at Canadian mining company Wellgreen Platinum Ltd.

 

Dr. Sarah Gordon, Satarla

Sarah Gordon is the founder and CEO of risk management consultancy Satarla, which has offices in London and Johannesburg. Before founding her consultancy, Dr. Gordon — whose doctorate-level research explored the composition of primitive meteorites — worked with AngloAmerican at sites and offices in Europe, Africa and South America.

 

Katie Jeremiah, Aggregate Resource Industries Inc.

Katie Jeremiah is a co-owner and the vice president at Aggregate Resource Industries Inc., a family company in Springfield, Oregon. Her background is actually in construction law, but she recently joined the company her father founded alongside her brother, Kris. Katie is the company’s legal counsel, and she handles business operations plus regulatory compliance.

 

Veronica Nyhan Jones, International Finance Corporation

Veronica Nyhan Jones is the global head of International Finance Corporation’s sustainable business advisory, where her team focuses on infrastructure and natural resource development. Before taking on this role, Jones had worked for the World Bank, at the White House and in the U.S Dept. for Health and Human Services.

 

Zayaan Kahn, Rio Tinto

Zayaan Kahn heads up Rio Tinto Copper and Coal’s marketing intelligence team in Singapore, a role to which she brings more than a decade of experience in mining and public policy. Kahn is also the founder of WIMAR SG, Singapore’s chapter of the Women in Mining and Resources Network.

 

Debbie Laney, Nalco

Debbie Laney, P.E. is the R&D manager at Nalco’s Global Mining & Metals Research Group, where she and her team develop flotation chemicals for the mining industry. Laney brings to the team extensive experience as a chief metallurgist, superintendent and project manager in several different mining companies. She has also served as president of the Women’s Mining Coalition, where she now sits on the advisory board.

 

Dr. Angelique Lasseigne, Generation 2 Materials Technology

Dr. Angelique Lasseigne is the founder and CTO at Generation 2 Materials Technology, which is developing new sets of non-destructive evaluation tools for better understand the properties of materials used in industry. Dr. Lasseigne brings to the team a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering, 80-plus publications, and a special expertise and understanding of how hydrogen interacts with metals.

 

Julie Lucas, Cliffs Natural Resources

Julie Lucas is the environmental manager at Hibbing Taconite, a company owned by Cliffs Natural Resources. For more than six years, she has overseen the waste management, wetland sustainability, and air and water quality compliance aspects — among others — of an environmental management system at an iron ore facility in Minnesota that employs more than 700 people.

 

Dr. Priscilla Nelson, Colorado School of Mines

Dr. Priscilla Nelson is the head of the Colorado School of Mines Department of Mining Engineering, a position she has held since 2014. She is also the creator of the site MyCELERY.org, which finds and curates collections of children’s books about engineering to make them easily accessible for K-4 students interested in engineering and STEM fields.

 

Shastri Ramnath, Orix Geoscience

Shastri Ramnath is the founder, president and principal geologist at Orix Geoscience, Inc. in Canada, a role to which she brings more than 15 years of experience in global exploration, resource estimation and modelling, and project evaluation. Ramnath founded Orix in 2012 to provide three-dimensional geological consulting services to exploration and mining companies.

 

Debra W. Struhsacker, Pershing Gold Corporation

Debra Struhsacker is a senior vice president at Pershing Gold Corporation, where she brings 30-plus years of experience in working with environmental and public land regulations. She is responsible for the company’s environmental permitting, regulatory and compliance issues, and government relations, and she brings extensive experience in working with policymakers in Washington on behalf of mineral exploration and mine development companies.