Bright Minds Win MINED Innovation Awards

Posted on Wednesday June 28, 2017
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On June 14, 2017, three university teams competed in the Ontario Mining Association's inaugural MINED Open Innovation Challenge. The OMA, which represents some of the world's leading resources companies operating in Ontario, is running this competition as part of its innovation agenda, aimed at driving enhanced performance in health and safety (mining with zero harm); environmental protection and energy efficiency (mining with zero carbon and zero waste); and productivity (building global competitiveness).

Undergraduate students from three Ontario universities - University of Toronto (Lassonde Institute of Mining), Queen's University (Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining) and Laurentian University (Bharti School of Engineering) - were given the opportunity to solve an industry challenge, drawn from OMA member companies' real life mining operation scenarios. Watch this video for an overview of the case study that was to be solved, which focused on improving mine ventilation. An industry expert panel reviewed all student submissions and selected three finalists, who got to pitch their ideas to top industry executives at a Dragons' Den-like live event at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"We were sure that the Dragons would be as impressed with the finalists' ideas as we were," said Peter Larsen, VP International Safety, Sales & Marketing, KalTire, and leader of the MINED Expert Panel. "We hope that working on a real-life problem and getting feedback from mining professionals has inspired the students to envision an exciting future career in our industry.... because, as the name of this challenge implies, the future of mines depends on bright minds."

After an intense round of questions, the "Dragons," who included Jennifer Maki, CEO of Vale, Tony Makuch, President and CEO of Kirkland Lake Gold, and Steve Thomas, CFO of Goldcorp's Canada Operations, selected the following winners:

First Place ($15,000): Pipe Dreams - Laurentian University
* Joshua Fortes
* Alex MacInnes
* Adam Grinbergs
* Liam Dunn
* Muhammad Syed
* Justin So

Second Place ($10,000): The Next Phase - Laurentian University
* Sarah Bulanda
* Peter Gazaes
* Patrick Lamontagne

Third Place ($5,000): Safe Through Sound (STS) - University of Toronto
* Yoko Yanagimura
* Marina Reny
* Matt Hart
* Justin Samardzic

In addition, the $5,000 Audience Choice Prize went to The Next Phase - Laurentian University. While the students clearly appreciate the substantial cash prizes, they found the exposure they gained to be invaluable.

According to Joshua Fortes of Pipe Dreams, "The opportunity to meet the judges and the other high level industry professionals was a great learning and networking experience." 

Sarah Bulanda of The Next Phase agreed that, "The networking experience after the presentations was invaluable and that alone made this event worthwhile." She continued, "Not only was this competition able to showcase up-and-coming students, but it also showed the mining community that there is room for innovation and that there are people ready and willing to try."

Marina Reny spoke for Safe Through Sound when she said, "We honestly believe that it was a great opportunity to think outside the box, to think disruptively," while Matt Hart added, "We don't always get the chance to use that part of the brain, and it will be so important for us in our careers to push the industry forward to more sustainable and economic mining."

Yoko Yanagimura summed up everyone's experience when she said, "For me, it is moments like these when I see the industry collectively try to move towards something better and encourage us students to be part of that movement to look for something innovative and question the status quo, I feel the most proud to be part of the mining industry."

On July 15, the students had a chance to attend the mining session at ideacity 2017, which explored how technology is disrupting mining, while mining provides the world with the building blocks of all (disruptive) technologies. 

Both the ideacity mining-themed session and the MINED competition were made possible by the generous financial and in-kind support of Ontario Mining Association members.

A new MINED Challenge will be launched in September 2017.

Learn more:

VIDEO: Ontario Mining: Reinventing the Future

VIDEO: MINED Challenge 2017

Photo Album from the MINED Challenge Live Event at HHOF