Eric Smith, Managing Director,


"We need to maintain a measured approach on the new technologies we incorporate given the cost, but will continue to transform our culture and how we perform work."

How are you navigating the challenges posed by the skill shortages in the labor market?

As we draw from the existing labor pool, we are investing in training new employees who have no mining background. We try to rely on equipment and methods that are intuitive and do not require years of experience to operate. For example, some of the drill jumbos we use are automated and only require the click of a button to drill out a blast pattern. If an individual uses an Xbox or Playstation, then they are well on the path to being able to operate much of the equipment we use. Cementation will remain dedicated to supporting clients in mine design, construction and early project development, as a partner mining companies can trust to deliver, even during a pandemic.

What are some of the milestones at the Alamos Gold’s Young-Davidson operation?

One key accomplishment at Young-Davidson was our innovative solution to sink their shaft. We developed a method that required no one to be inside the shaft for excavation by using a raise bore to excavate the shaft and then install the hoisting plant over the top. There was a raise bore machine pulling up a reamer used for excavation and we relied on directional drilling technology to ensure a straight shaft. We are replicating this model also in projects in the US.

Can you comment on your rate of adoption of mining industry 4.0 technologies and its benefits?

Innovations in cutting the rock and remotely operating vehicles underground are some examples of our adoption. Concerning virtual reality (VR), our engineering and design group is designing 3D models that can be viewed in VR space. This is an example of rapid prototyping where you can see and experience a shaft sinking plant, for example, and identify and eliminate safety issues and interferences before it is built.

Virtually operated machinery is another focus of ours at the moment. We are assessing the use of virtually operated robots that can undertake hazardous tasks.

How does Cementation use innovation for safety and do you have any examples?

Our goal is to become the preferred service provider for clients. We continuously invest in innovation to make sure our people, which are our number one priority, have all the necessary resources and are challenged. Safety is a key focus, particularly in underground mining, which is traditionally labor intensive and has yet to incorporate technologies commonly used in other industries. We are working on automation, which not only has the safety benefit, but also allows us to have a diverse workforce, as it increases our options. We are also focused on virtually operated machinery, where we assess the degree to which virtually operated robots can undertake hazardous tasks. We need to maintain a measured approach on the new technologies we incorporate given the cost, but will continue to transform our culture and how we perform work.

Compass Minerals and Cementation received an award for our safety program at the Goderich mine shafts relining project in Ontario. The trust between our workforce and management was a key factor in our success given an open constant communication channel between management and employees as they report hazardous situations or near misses to minimize operational risks. When an incident occurs, the majority of the time it is because we as management could have better supported employees.