A well-known gold mining company is holding events in cities like Toronto that may lead to significant changes in the mining industry.
Barrick Gold mines millions of ounces of gold and other precious metals each year. It’s headquartered in Toronto, where the company is active in interacting with the community.
At the Unearthed Toronto hackathon in March, participants looked at the use of cloud technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other recent announcements to figure out how to improve this very physical process with digital tools.
Kulvir Gill, a previous Barrick Gold leader who helped the company to revolutionize its supply chain practices and now works at Clareo, has 10 years of experience in the mining industry.
Gill explained to Toronto Business Daily how these events help companies to innovate.
“The best thing about hackathons is their ability to cut through the usual bureaucracy and red tape that keeps corporations focused almost exclusively on incrementally improving their core operations,” Gill said, describing how getting people out from behind their desks can spur creativity. “By taking people out of their day jobs, putting them in the pressure cooker of a weekend competition, and surrounding them with very smart technical people from outside the industry, you are bound to ideate potentially solutions that you couldn’t get sitting in your corporate silo.”
Gill also said hackathons “bring a new lens” to the biggest challenges in the mining industry, citing problems like lack of social license to operate, poor environmental legacies, obsession with economies of scale and challenges with remote operations, as well as a lack of existing public infrastructure and aging workforces.
“Miners tend to have grown up in the industry, so bringing in ‘hackers’ who have worked across multiple sectors forces us to challenge our fundamental assumptions about how we mine and entertain the thought of actually doing things in a fundamentally different way,” Gill said.
Saying it’s time for change, Gill also made an appeal for mining as an industry.
“The world needs mining,” Gill said. “We provide the building blocks or the lego pieces for modern civilization. However, how we mine is increasingly unsustainable on every level – economically, technically, socially, and environmentally. This is an industry ripe for disruption. The question is whether the big players are going to be able to disrupt themselves. Companies like Barrick, with their investments in technologies and innovation, are certainly making an effort to stay ahead of the curve.”