Monday, March 04, 2019

The New Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan Stakes its Claim on the Space Industry

          By Chuck Black

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, (CMMP) the Federal governments "vision" to assist with the strategic direction of the Canadian mining industry, has been released. As expected, the new plan spends much time discussing the need for the adaption of "new and emerging technologies" from a variety of other industries, including Canada's space industry.

NRCan Minister Amarjeet Sohi, at the Canadian Government Booth (#539) on the trade show floor of PDAC 2019 on March 3rd, 2019. Sohi said the new CMMP plan covered the "six key issues" identified during a two-year period of extensive stakeholder engagement. Those issues included competitiveness, the participation of Indigenous Peoples, community benefits, respect for the environment, scientific and technological innovation, and global leadership. The complete CMMP is available online at the Canadian Minerals and Mining Plan website. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

As outlined in the March 3rd, 2019 Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) press release, "Canada's Mines Ministers Unveil the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, A Visionary Plan to Inspire and Shape the Future of Canadian Mining," the announcement was made by Amarjeet Sohi, the Federal government Minister of Natural Resources (NRCan), along with most of his provincial and territorial counterparts, at the 2019 edition of the annual Prospector and Developers Mining Association Convention, which kicked off on Sunday in Toronto, ON.

As outlined in the March 4th, 2019 Mining Magazine post, "Canada launches 'generational' minerals and metals plan," the policy document was endorsed by all Canada's mining ministers except Greg Rickford of Ontario and Bronwyn Eyre of Saskatchewan.
Rickford said that while the two dissenting provinces agreed with certain elements of the plan, he viewed it as a missed opportunity for Canada to address economic and competitiveness challenges and send a strong message to global investors that Canada was prepared to take ‘real action' to support the mining sector.
Others have categorized the plan as the "vision" which will need of an "action plan" in order to move forward.

The current intention of the participants in the process is to reconvene at the next Energy Mines and Ministers Conference, an annual gathering of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for energy and mining portfolios, where they will have a second chance to develop consensus and work out the specifics.

That conference is scheduled for July 2019. The first CMMP formal "action plan" is scheduled for release in 2020.

The timeline for roll-out of the final plan calls for "incentives to support a ”supercluster”-type model for tackling large innovation challenges," and a "pan-Canadian data strategy that reflects transformative technologies is underway" by 2022, plus significant gains in "the commercialization of mining-related technologies and processes, including next generation geoscience tools," by 2025.

Dan King, the VP of strategic space systems ventures at Brampton ON based MDA Space Systems giving a presentation for the "Future of Exploration and Mining; An Interactive Session" track on March 4th, 2019 at PDAC 2019. He argued that there are a variety of technological and business overlaps between the mining and the space industry and MDA has the tools and technologies to assist in both areas. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

One of the more noteworthy areas where the CMMP hopes to source new technology is the space industry. As outlined on page 31, under the title "Case Study: Mining / Space Technology Transfer," the document noted that:
Canada’s space sector has decades of experience in research, development and innovation resulting in spin-offs for commercial applications for mining. Remote sensing and Earth observation satellites, such as Radarsat-2, have been used to map information on mineral, oil and gas deposits. 
In 2008, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd. was hired by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop lunar rover prototypes, including the Juno and Artemis rovers. 
Building on this experience, the company produced a fully amphibious rover for operation on Earth. The ARGO J5 is the first in a family of robotic vehicles used in Canada, Europe, Asia and South America for various applications. For example, it uses 3D underground mapping for inspections of unstable or dangerous mining environments resulting from blasting.
The document also noted that innovation sometimes flows in the other direction, from the mining to the space industry:
Sudbury-based mining and automation robotics firm, Deltion Innovations, is developing technology for the CSA (the Canadian Space Agency) with the potential for use on missions to the Moon and Mars. The Percussive and Rotary Multi-Purpose Tool is described as a “space-age Swiss Army Knife,” which can be installed on the end of a CSA robotic manipulator arm.
According to the CMMP, "adapting new and emerging technologies processes brings opportunities for growth as well as risk."

Dale Boucher, the CEO at Capreol ON based Deltion Innovations giving a presentation for the "Future of Exploration and Mining; An Interactive Session" track on March 4th, 2019 at PDAC 2019. He noted how his company used "fundamental lessons learned from space" to develop a new, low-cost terrestrial mining tool, which automatically collects small core sample from drill sites without the need to send a miner into the drilled hole to collect samples. The new application will save money when drilling since the holes don't need to be shored-up before a sample can be taken. Photo c/o Chuck Black.

While the new report is not a wealth of specific information (that will potentially come later with the "action plan"), it can fairly be considered as indicative of substantial background activity at NRCAN and in other organizations.

After all, and as outlined in the June 8th, 2018 post, "NRCan Explores Space Mining," NRCan has been trying to reach out to the Canadian mining and space mining community for at least the last year.

Whether or not it ends up succeeding in an area currently dominated by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is a question still up in the air. For now, NRCAN has made a good start.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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