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Social licence to operate begins with a shared understanding of the issues, says Bill Burton..SUPPLIED

Earth sciences and geology aren’t just for finding the motherlode stereotypical prospectors dreamed of; they are also integral to responsible mining.

Modern mines have some of the world’s largest and most complex engineered structures, while at the same time, care for the land and waters is imperative. Supporting these needs requires an understanding of how geology and climate interact with engineering design, construction and mine closure activities.

Field time drilling holes and interpreting core is supplemented by cutting-edge data integration and management, producing designs that are communicated to mining company executives and community members studying a mixed reality holographic visualization of 4D data.

Bill Burton, M.Eng., P.Eng., vice president, geotechnical/geological Engineer of BGC Engineering Inc., a Vancouver-based international consulting firm that provides professional services in applied earth sciences, says data integration and workforce capacity are linked – taking advantage of ever-growing amounts of data and incorporating it into operations requires developing a workforce in a competitive environment and providing workers with tools to be effective.

For example, he says BGC is focused on delivering applied earth science knowledge to help clients make risk-informed decisions in complex settings.

BCG helps its clients address three key challenges facing the mining sector:

  • Social licence to operate;
  • Data integration; and
  • Workforce skills and capacity.

Mr. Burton points out that advancements in traditional and spaceborne monitoring tools, real-time instrumentation and asset management platforms are generating tremendous volumes of data that are impractical to analyze using traditional methods.

Mining companies now need specialized tools for geohazard and geotechnical risk management and to support construction, operations and monitoring at the facility level; portfolio management applications for owners and their technical review boards; and a global data portal for inventory, risk screening and monitoring of a growing inventory of tailings dams as both a resource to learn from and a platform to share learnings.

“Our engineering recommendations are rooted in expertise in natural systems and the mechanics of soil, rock, water, ice and the physical and chemical stability of these systems in changing climates,” says Mr. Burton. “This expertise guides development decisions, safe and reliable operations, and positive transitions to post-closure globally.”

One of BGC’s digital data initiatives is the Ada Platform™ for holographic visualization of 4D data. Mr. Burton says Ada allows clients to bring mixed reality data visualization into their workflows, pulling information out of monitors and putting it in the middle of a room for teams to explore together.

“Social licence to operate begins with a shared understanding of the issues, and holographic projections have been effective in increasing engagement in community meetings,” he says. “Photographs can be turned into true-scale holograms, bringing remote sites to people at other locations.”

Mr. Burton believes social licence requires developing trust and partnerships with host governments, communities and consumers. Tailings and water stewardship are key issues for social licence conversations and are core areas of BGC’s focus.

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Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.