What do accounting, computer programming, civil engineering and geology have in common? Mining. That’s one of the answers that emerged from the most recent hackathon organized by Barrick, which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August.
The event brought together 110 digital natives from across the country to brainstorm ideas and to develop prototypes for the Veladero Mine. There were 17 teams in total. The top prize went to Federal, a team of five people who designed a 3D visualization tool that has the potential to better identify gold and increase recovery rates at the mine’s processing area.
“We didn’t really expect to win,” said Alejandro Madcur, a civil engineer from San Juan province and a member of Federal. “We still don’t believe it. It was an exciting opportunity and I’m glad we were able to work as a team, synchronize our knowledge, and come up with the winning solution for the toughest challenge.”
This is the fifth hackathon Barrick has organized this year
Madcur’s teammates were Michaela Amatti, a geologist from Cordoba province; Joaquin Sousa, a Buenos Aires civil engineer currently residing in San Juan province; Santiago Azcona, an accountant and data analyst from San Juan; and Omar Mrad, a software developer also from Cordoba province who currently lives in San Juan. They were part of a larger group of 30 San Juan residents the provincial government and Barrick sponsored to participate in the event.
The four challenges from Veladero touched on key priorities for the operation, covering gold processing, maintenance and engagement with communities.
“We have many talented engineers at Veladero, but many of the young people here today do not have experience in mining, which means they see our challenges from a different perspective, and that is valuable,” said Jim Whittaker, Chief Executive Officer (General Manager) of Minera Argentina Gold, the operator of Barrick’s joint venture at Veladero with Shandong Gold.
This is the fifth hackathon Barrick organized this year. The Company has partnered with Australia-based Unearthed Solutions to host hackathons in Argentina and Toronto, and an online competition. Barrick also sponsored a similar event in China, and organized a special hackathon for its interns across North America at the Company’s CodeMine in Elko, Nevada.
“We’re starting to put a roadmap together for our innovation journey, and like all roadmaps, there are a number of areas where we don’t have the solutions because they are not commercially available,” says Michelle Ash, Barrick’s Chief Innovation Officer. “Organizing hackathons, partnering with other companies and reaching out to universities, are all avenues to create that ecosystem that will help finding new solutions not only for our industry, but potentially for many areas outside of mining.”
Barrick’s next hackathon will take place in Denver, Colorado, on September 22nd. Registration for the event, which is also organized by Unearthed Solutions, is already open.