Advancing Together With Barrick Gold

Blog BLOG: Finding chemistry with mining

If modern mining was simple, Barrick’s Strategic Technology Solutions group wouldn’t be necessary. But the challenges of building and operating large mines with complex ore bodies in remote locations creates a need for people who can solve complex technology and operational problems.

Part of my job as Director of the Strategic Technology Solutions (STS) group is to look closely at various aspects of the mining process, anticipate operational challenges five or even 10 years from now and work towards long-term solutions. It’s not unlike the job of a city planner. You look at a city and say, “How do we resolve the traffic problems now and prepare for what could happen in 10 years? Do we think that this highway will be sufficient? If it won’t, what are the solutions?”

Our ability to provide these technological options can determine whether a project becomes a mine or not and how long it remains open. Part of our job is to challenge the status quo and aspire to step changes that help us mine more efficiently and more cost effectively — always, in an environmentally safe and responsible manner.

To me, the science and technology model that we apply at Barrick is one of the most advanced for developing and implementing technology in modern mining anywhere in the world.

So how did I end up in mining? Well, in many respects, it boils down to chemistry. I had two major interests heading into university: history and chemistry. Coming from a very modest family in Athens, I decided I couldn’t make a living easily through the arts, so I chose my other love – chemistry.

After finishing my undergraduate degree in Greece and completing a Ph.D. in hydrometallurgical engineering here in Canada, I started my career with the Canadian Government in Ottawa where I worked on various hydrometallurgical projects. I then moved into the private sector working across Canada at many different companies, including Noranda and Inco. I always worked on the science and technology side of mining.

To me, the science and technology model that we apply at Barrick is one of the most advanced for developing and implementing technology in modern mining anywhere in the world. It’s flexible and focused on addressing specific operational challenges, rather than engaging in research and development with no clear objective. We’re a small team with expertise in key areas, like mine processing, water usage, energy and hydrometallurgy (which refers to the method of obtaining metal from ores using liquid solvents). When we need support from third-party experts, we know where to find them anywhere in the world.

Back in 2005 when I formed the STS group, many people in the industry could not comprehend the model. They didn’t think such a small group could make a difference or provide the required expertise to solve complex mining problems, but we found success bringing in experts when we need them. Today, we’re thinking about new ways to move ore on site so we can better manage our energy costs, but it took years to educate people about the issue and the need to consider these new options.

It’s impossible to be successful all the time, but our ability to provide options in difficult situations makes a difference and ultimately makes Barrick a more successful company.

 

What role do you see technology playing in making natural resource extraction safer and more efficient? Tell us in the comments below.