CLEER: Powering Clean Growth Through Mining Innovation

Clean Resources Supercluster

In May 2017, the Government of Canada launched the Innovation Supercluster Initiative to “strengthen Canada’s most promising clusters and accelerate economic growth in highly innovative industries, while positioning our firms for global leadership.” 

On July 21, CMIC with the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation submitted a letter of intent for a mining supercluster, tentatively entitled CLEER (Clean, Low-energy, Effective, Engaged and Remediated).

What Is It?

From the proposals’ Executive Summary: “The CLEER supercluster will transform the mining sector’s productivity, performance, and competitiveness. This will be achieved by tackling global challenges of water, energy, and environmental footprint, with bold targets of a 50% reduction in each area by 2027. CLEER will engage the mining services and supply sector (MSS) and anchor mining companies, accelerate collaborative innovation, stimulate investments exceeding $5B, grow SMEs, improve company productivity, initiate export pathways, and create/retain more than 100,000 jobs. The supercluster will position Canada as a global leader in clean resources and clean technology development. This initiative is essential for clean growth, and will promote responsible sourcing of metals, given that the Canadian mining sector is a key global provider of the raw materials used as inputs for the development of clean technologies, including the clean energy transition (e.g. solar panels, battery electric vehicles, SMART grids, and wind turbines). In essence, clean resource development in Canada is indispensable to growth in clean tech and to the global clean economy of the future.

Who Is Involved?

The supercluster is an industry-led, multi-stakeholder consortium comprised of four existing clusters, which, combined, represent 11 large companies (including eight resource companies), 13 post-secondary institutions, 42 SMEs and 25 other support organizations.

While CMIC with CEMI led the development of the proposal, myriad stakeholders from across Canada were instrumental in putting the proposal together, including national and regional organizations like the Mining Association of Canada (MAC, national), the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment for Export (CAMESE, national), COREM (QC),  l’Association minière du Québec (QC), the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII, SK) and the Multinational Centre of Excellence in Mineral Sensing and Sorting (MICESS, BC). Additionally, a host of individuals, mining company executives, consultants, and many others played an active role in helping bring the proposal to fruition.  

As a result, this is truly an initiative for the mining sector by the mining sector.

What Are Anticipated Outcomes?

The overall intent of CLEER is to develop new technology/processes to solve common, significant issues that result in three major outcomes:

  1. A clean mining industry with superior economic, environmental and social performance;
  2. A bolstered mining supply chain – comprised of both new and existing companies – that has increased global export opportunities to the resource sector as well as other sectors; and,
  3. With these combined, positioning Canada as a global leader and the supplier of choice of raw materials to an increasingly discerning global market of buyers and consumers (i.e. responsible sourcing).     

We will couple an industry “pull” approach (defined technology roadmaps that provide a longer-term view of the industry while addressing shorter term challenges) with expertise from the SME and MSS communities inside and outside of mining.

How Will It Be Setup?

The CLEER supercluster is envisaged as a distributed supercluster that is national in scope. To see why this is the approach we took, we need to take a step back and compare the mining and minerals industry to, for example, high tech.

Mining centres are highly dispersed across Canada as shown in Figure 1 below.

 

Figure 1:        Mining Centres of Canada (Mining Association of Canada)

The same cannot be said for the high-tech sector in Canada that is clearly concentrated in a few select areas like Vancouver, Toronto-Waterloo, and Ottawa-Montreal (Figure 2).

Figure 2:        Top 300 ICT Companies (www.branham300.com/index.php)

The mining sector by its very nature is dispersed across Canada with multiple regions of strength.  So how does the mining industry manage this geographic dispersion?  Simple – headquarters are typically located in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.  From these head offices flows executive oversight, capital allocations, national and global procurement systems, and increasingly strategic technology decisions.  This last two points are critical given that the supercluster is intended to accelerate the creation and adoption of technological solutions.

Thus, a strong argument has been made that a traditional supercluster approach that leverages strength in a single region simply does not make sense nor will it benefit the mining industry as a whole.   The alternative approach agreed to by a group of mining company executives, suppliers and organizations such as MAC, CAMESE, COREM, CEMI and CMIC is to emulate how the mining industry actually operates, namely a cluster of clusters in various regions (Sudbury, Quebec City, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Edmonton) with a headquarters in Toronto.  Multiple centres also ensure extensive reach into Canada’s north and leveraging  the growing number of SME’s created and owned by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.  A critical aspect of the supercluster is access to global markets, which makes further sense as Toronto represents the primary hub for the global flow of technology internationally. 

Government officials also acknowledged that this is the case for the mining industry and that a supercluster that emulates the traditional structure of the mining industry was indeed the approach to follow.

The proposed supercluster represents an unprecedented level of cooperation across the mining sector. Going forward, this united front is critical for taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunity in front of us.