Q&A with IAMGOLD’s Steven Bowles

Interviewed by Chantal Hortop

Steven Bowles, Manager of the Côté Gold Project for IAMGOLD, will speak at the GMG-CIM Forum on June 12-13 in Sudbury, Ontario. His presentation is titled A Journey Toward the Integrated Mine. We asked him a few questions about his presentation and his work.

What kinds of autonomous technology will be integrated into the Côté Gold project?
Both Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS) and Autonomous Drilling Systems (ADS) were selected to be applied in the Côté Gold Project. These systems are now proven technologies applied in various mine sites around the world with demonstrated safety and cost benefits when compared to manned operations.

What motivated those planning the project to integrate autonomous technology?
Criteria for technology on the project included the need for it to be proven in existing operations with a track record of performance which is auditable and to generate healthy financial returns which improve project economics. When applying these filters, we can see that both AHS and ADS generate strong returns from lower labour requirements even with new highly specialized technical positions needed to support autonomy onsite. Also, considering this is a greenfield project with no existing operation, the technological implementation does not require significant management of change, which can be challenging in an already existing manned operation with established processes and systems.

In your current role as project manager, what skills do you draw in from your previous positions, some of which were abroad?
Working internationally provides good exposure to cultural and social norms which could either benefit the work environment or provide ongoing challenges. In the case of my projects in the Middle East, there was a site with about 10,000 workers most with low levels of skills and exposure to industrial environments. It was a feat to train and motivate them to achieve success and safe delivery.

What strategies did you apply in your most recent role as Operations Manager for a mine in Nunavik that led to the achievement of record-setting safety and production performance?
It required a strong management team commitment to supporting a more focused and intensive preventive safety program toward Zero Harm. We all received the Dupont Behavioral Based Safety Training and moved to implement management systems which enabled us to target field time with high-quality safety interactions and to perform regular critical control audits. This approach was implemented with a high level of involvement from first-line supervision and over time it created a focus and drive toward delivering preventive actions in the field including the identification and resolution of dangerous conditions and behaviours.

How have you applied the knowledge and experience gained in that role to the current Côté Gold project?
The strategy to implement a culture of prevention is at the forefront of Côté Gold. One of the main differences is that for Côté Gold we will deliver our project with many contractors from different parts of the country each with their own safety cultures and systems. We will select those who have a culture that meets our expectations and the ability to manage with safety as a priority. This will set the tone for the operations phase, so we have to get it right from the beginning.


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