Technical Sessions

Align your corporate values and innovations to the mission of the SME THRIVE Conference as we explore insights from subject matter experts about a host of innovative, cutting-edge technologies that are changing the paradigm in how mineral resources are found, mined and processed.


**Please check back often for updates on technical sessions.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Vail Marriott

  • 8:30 am – 8:45 amWelcoming Remarks, Safety Share, Introductions & Review of the Agenda
    SME President, Hugh Miller
  • 8:45 am – 9:30 amRecent Experience in Mine Innovation at Hecla Mining Company
    Jeff Rosser, Director, Continuous Improvement, Hecla Mining Company

    In 2014, Hecla initiated a project investigating innovative technologies being deployed within the mining industry. The objectives of this project were defining and implementing those proven or emerging technologies that could add value to the company from safety, economic and environmental standpoints. As an outcome of this technology push, one of the most distinctive and “home-grown” innovations is a hard-rock, narrow vein mobile continuous mechanical miner being developed jointly by Hecla and Epiroc. This new machine, with its novel design and its potential step-change array of benefits, is currently undergoing performance testing underground in Sweden. In 2020, this ‘first of its kind’ machine will be shipped to Hecla’s Lucky Friday Mine where it will be reassembled underground and begin an extensive site test before full deployment in a production environment. This presentation will describe aspects of the collaborative design process, performance testing, and the wide-reaching preparation underway by the Lucky Friday team to successfully implement and support this game-changing new technology that will reinvent the mine’s future. The presentation will also include discussion of some other technology solutions implemented at Hecla mines in the past 5 years, including Wi-Fi coverage underground, wireless monitoring of personnel and equipment via central mine monitoring and surface control centers, autonomous haulage, tele-remote LHD’s, ventilation on demand, battery-powered loaders, ore sorting, and automated jumbos for face drilling.
  • 9:30 am – 10:15 amAdvancements in Monitoring for Tailings Storage Facilities
    John Lupo, Sr. Director, Geotechnical and Hydrology Newmont Mining Corp.

    Recent catastrophic failure of Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs) has put a strong focus on performance monitoring of facilities. Data collected from performance monitoring programs are used to correlate performance with the design intent and/or expectations which can then be used to inform risk decisions. Technological advancements in performance monitoring, using a combination of remote sensing techniques with in-situ instrumentation, have made significant strides over the last several years. Performance monitoring is now considered a critical element in TSF management. This presentation discusses advancements made in performance monitoring and how they play a role in TSF management.
  • 10:15 am – 10:30 amCoffee Break & Networking
  • 10:30 am – 11:15 amThe Step Change that is Taking Place in Mining as a Result of Autonomy
    Michael C. Murphy, Chief Engineer, Caterpillar Inc

    Autonomy is creating a step change in mining in terms of safety and productivity. Its adoption is quickly moving from early adopters to fast follower mining companies and from high labor cost regions to those where labor costs are a lower percentage of mining costs. It is enabling mining companies to significantly reduce process variances in their operations and move to a mining version of Lean. This paper explores the status of the industry adoption along with the benefits that have been obtained and how they were obtained. It will also discuss what is takes in terms of people and process i.e. change management to be successful. The other areas of discussion will be the differences in implementation for a Greenfield vs. Brownfield operation. Lastly, it will explore where to next on the autonomy journey for mining.
  • 11:15 am – NoonReimagining Underground Stoping with Wireless Initiation
    Steve Piercey, Senior Manager – Wireless Blasting NA, Orica Mining Services

    Production mining in the underground environment has not changed very much in the past 50 years. One of the main reasons that we were not able to modify the production mining sequence was due to the requirement for miners to physically connect blasts to the initiation system. That has all changed with the introduction of Orica’s WebGen™ wireless, through-the-earth, initiation system. The WebGen™ system has allowed mine design personnel to rethink the stope excavation sequence as there is no longer a requirement for miners to complete the physical tie-in of the blast.

    This presentation chronicles various WebGen™ enhanced mining method advancements that Orica’s North American wireless blasting team have introduced to their customers recently. As a result of these advancements, underground mining operations have experienced improvements in safety through reduced worker exposure, have benefited from dramatic reductions in dilution and increased ore recovery, while seeing significant reductions in overall stope cycle time.
  • Noon – 1:30 pmLunch & Keynote Speaker
    Financing Technology and Innovation in Mining
    Ross Bhappu, Partner, Head of Private Equity Funds, Resource Capital Funds

    Ross Bhappu has been with Resource Capital Funds since the beginning of its second fund in 2001. His experience in the mining industry includes working for both major and junior mining companies in operational, business development and management roles. Prior to joining Resource Capital Funds, Ross served as the CEO of a development stage mining company. Additional experience includes serving as Director of Business Development for Newmont Mining Corporation and various technical and commercial roles for Cyprus Minerals Company (now part of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold) where was involved in the construction and operation of the rebuilt Miami Copper Smelter in Arizona. Ross currently serves on the boards of directors of portfolio company Lighthouse Resources Inc. as well as the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources. He previously held Director roles with a number of mining companies including Traxys S.A., Molycorp, Constellation Copper, EMED Mining and Anglo Asian Mining. Ross concluded his three-year term on the board of directors of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) in 2017. Ross holds a Ph.D. in Mineral Economics from the Colorado School of Mines and B.S. and M.S. degrees in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Arizona. He is married with twin daughters and lives in Denver.
  • 1:30 pm – 2:15 pmInnovation in Exploration: An Outlook on Approaches to Enhancing Our Imaginations
    M. Stephen Enders, Director of Subsurface Frontiers, Colorado School of Mines

    The business of mineral exploration is rapidly adapting to the challenges of exploring under cover; and, new approaches to enhancing our imaginations are emerging in three broad fields. These encompass the technology, knowledge and computing areas. The future of mineral exploration lies in the application and integration of these advances.
  • 2:15 pm – 3:00 pmInnovations in Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy
    Corby G. Anderson, Harrison Western Professor, Kroll Institute for Extractive Metallurgy, Colorado School of Mines

    This presentation will outline the history and impact of Innovations in Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy. In some key developments, entirely new industries were created and propelled by this sector of innovation. Hence, brief case studies of the development and implementation of key technologies such as flotation, cyanidation, aluminum production, copper electrorefining and copper solvent extraction will be presented. Current opportunities and challenges will also be elucidated.
  • 3:00 pm – 3:15 pmCoffee Break & Networking
  • 3:15 pm – 4:00 pmSustainable Water Supply for Chile’s Copper Mines
    Jim Spenceley, Senior VP Mining, Black & Veatch

    Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper, with mines concentrated in the water scarce Atacama desert region. Copper output will increase over the next decade as new mines and expansions come on line. Miners are now looking to the ocean to supply water sustainably to their operations with Minera Escondida taking the lead with their recently commissioned desalination project. This presentation will discuss current and emerging trends in mining desalination water supply projects in Chile.
    Jessica Kogel, CDC NIOSH
  • 4:05 pmAdvancing Mine Worker Health and Safety in the Western US
    Todd Ruff, NIOSH Spokane Mining Research Division

    The Spokane Mining Research Division (SMRD) is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). We conduct research to reduce a wide variety of occupational hazards, and we work to eliminate mining fatalities, injuries, and illnesses across all mining sectors with a focus on the western United States. Through laboratory research and partnerships with industry we develop innovative technologies, new methods, and educational materials to achieve a safer and healthier environment for our nation’s mine workers.

    Todd Ruff currently serves as the associate director for science at the NIOSH Spokane Mining Research Division in Spokane, WA. He has worked in mining technology and safety research for over 25 years in both the federal government and the private sector. Todd received his bachelor and master degrees in electrical engineering from Gonzaga University and is a registered engineer in Washington State.
  • 4:15 pmNovel Approaches for Extracting Information from Seismic Data
    Derrick Chambers, NIOSH Spokane Mining Research Division

    Monitoring mining induced seismicity can provide valuable insights into the Earth’s response to the extraction process. However, in traditional workflows, seismic processing usually requires a significant amount of human interaction to achieve the data quality required for most uses. Recent advances in machine learning show promise for alleviating this issue by automating, or partially automating, aspects of routine seismic analysis. This is especially beneficial for mines which record high levels seismicity. Additionally, the newly popularized area of seismic interferometry has proven useful in turning what was previously classified as seismic noise into usable signal for imaging stress changes and void formations related to mining. Both of these advances have great potential to allow more actionable information to be obtained faster in order to help make mines safer.

    Derrick Chambers received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah where he studied mining engineering and geophysics. After graduation he began working as a research mining engineer at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. His professional interests include mining induced seismicity, data analytics, and open-source software development.
  • 4:30 pmGoing Deeper – a Closer Look at Heat Stress in Deep Western US Metal Mines
    Gerald Poplin, NIOSH Spokane Mining Research Division

    Heat strain, which is the physical strain experienced from heat exposure, is a growing issue in U.S. mining, but few studies of heat strain have been performed among U.S. miners. A better understanding of patterns of heat strain among U.S. miners would help guide future research relevant to mining. We present results of a pilot study to evaluate the physiologic effects of heat strain among a small sample of U.S. underground miners and describe the goals, strategies, and progress to date on the NIOSH Mining Program’s heat stress research.

    Kristin Yeoman received her medical degree from the George Washington University, and a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She joined the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in 2013, where she has performed research to understand health issues among miners and other high-risk western occupations. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a study to assess the performance effects of heat stress among miners.
  • 4:45 pmAddressing Challenging Ground Conditions in Underground Metal Mines through Innovation
    Kathryn Dehn, NIOSH Spokane Mining Research Division

    The Spokane Mining Research Division works closely with industry collaborators to develop innovative methods for safe and successful mining in challenging ground conditions currently faced by U.S. mine operators. The ground conditions range from high stress in ultra-deep hard rock mines, to relatively shallow operations with alteration and fracturing so intense that the rock is almost soil like. SMRD research covers the entire ground support cycle; including rock mass characterization, support design, installation, durability, and longevity. Our research topics include rock mass monitoring, support optimization, installation safety, real-time monitoring of ground support, backfill performance, and degradation from corrosion.

    Kathryn is a Mining Engineer with NIOSH at the Spokane Mining Research Division. She has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Montana State University, a master’s degree in Geological Engineering from Montana Tech, and a was a Ph.D. candidate in Mining Engineering at the University of British Columbia. Kathryn spent 10 years working in the mining industry at various underground operations in the U.S. and Canada before joining NIOSH in late 2016. She specializes in Ground Control related topics including mining with cemented backfill, mining induced seismicity, and geological controls on rock mass conditions.
  • 5:15 pm – 8:00 pmClosing Reception & Keynote Speaker
    Technology Integration – An Operator’s Perspective
    Steve Holmes, Mining Consultant, Tucson, AZ

    Technology has always been a cornerstone of the mining industry from adoption of pneumatic machines, mechanized, large-scale transportation systems, new mining and exploration methods, computerized Dispatching systems, and now major movements into autonomous machine technology and processing of mass digital data to improve safety, cost and productivity. Yet, major advances of the use in technology within mining have been slow relative to other industries like oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, transportation and manufacturing. Why is mining considered a “Slow Follower” technology industry? The evidence is not obvious to many. Successfully applying new technologies to advance mining, metallurgy and exploration requires skill sets not always found in engineers, metallurgist and geologist, and companies that recognize the critical importance of the Human Factor will become the new leaders in mining’s future.

    Steve Holmes is a seasoned mining executive having worked 37 years in the industry for major companies Phelps Dodge, Freeport-McMoRan, Asarco LLC, KCGM and most recently Barrick Gold. He is a Mining Engineer with an MBA who has been actively involved in developing and implementing advanced technology in mining, having served as FMI’s leader of their Mine Technology Group or MTG. Steve currently is a consultant and serves as the SME Foundation’s President-Elect and has been a SME Board member and leader in SME’s M&E Division. He has worked internationally across nearly every continent having most recently leading Barrick Gold’s worldwide joint venture operations and previously as Chief Operating Officer for KGHM’s copper operations in North and South America.

Thursday, October 3, 2019 | Climax Molybdenum Mine

  • 7:30 am – Noon Field Trip
    The intent of the Climax Molybdenum Mine Tour is to provide Conference Participants with the unique opportunity to see a world-class surface mine that has been successful in integrating cutting edge technology and best industry practices into their operations. The tour will focus on a variety of these technical innovations and how these advancements have impacted employee safety, mine productivity, cost, and other important metrics. Many of the subjects discussed during the Thrive presentations will be seen in practice.
    • • The tour is limited to 33 participants.
    • • All attendees should wear closed toe shoes or steel toed shoes. The mine has hard hats and safety glasses but those who chose, can bring their own.
    • • The tour will be 2 hours long once onsite and leave the mine no later than 11. Buses will return to the Marriott no later than Noon