By Chantal Hortop
As a volunteer with GMG, for years Mark Richards, Manager, Mining Technology at Teck, has brought his commitment, knowledge and vision to the group. Heather Ednie, Managing Director for GMG, calls him a “silent hero” who has supported the group “since our very inception and even before.”
“Mark and his team have actively engaged in and led our working groups and projects,” says Ednie. These projects include short interval control, battery electric vehicles, autonomous systems, interoperability and AI.
Richards’ interest in mining was piqued by an opportunity when he was in Grade 11 in the UK. The National Coal Board was offering a week-long trip to Strathclyde in Scotland for students to learn about the mining industry there. He took them up on their offer and, as he says, “apparently it worked, although I went to Camborne School of Mines, as hard rock mining seemed to have more opportunities.”
There have been countless changes in the industry since Richards first began, but his day-to-day work as a manager in mining technology puts him right in the thick of those changes, continually seeing how the industry might best move forward. He notes that some of his main challenges as a manager involve facilitating the implementation of new technologies and ensuring their sustainability within a given operation. These challenges are present across the industry, and Richards says he believes many challenges can best be solved by “applying many minds to the problem.” Furthermore, the collective influence of many companies “can make change possible through weight of opinion or demand.”
A vision of tomorrow’s mines
Looking ahead over the next decade, Richards foresees an increase in autonomous machines and other forms of automation, and his vision does not stop there. He envisages the subsequent commoditization of autonomy leading to lowered costs across the industry, though he predicts that “this will potentially bring costs down faster for bigger companies than smaller ones that are less able to afford new technologies.” Another interesting possibility, he says, is how “autonomy changes the paradigm of scale in mining,” making smaller equipment “the most efficient option.” He also predicts that “the electrification of mines will likely proceed apace as equipment comes up for renewal.”
Richards was instrumental in organizing a stream in this year’s CIM technical program on Innovation, Automation and Data on behalf of GMG. He says initiatives like this program are crucial to the industry since they “showcase various facets of technology to the industry and provide an opportunity for others to hear about new ideas, ask questions and think about how something can transfer to their own site.” Striving for growth and improvement of the broader industry is behind Richards’ dedication to GMG. As Ednie says, his “commitment to industry evolution defines the culture required to enable tomorrow’s mines.”