Step into the future of mining as Nutrien revolutionizes how to extract valuable resources from the most challenging underground environments

Published: Jul 17, 2023

Collaboration and innovation are key to driving progress and achieving ambitious goals. At Nutrien’s extensive network of potash mines, there has been a remarkable collaboration among it’s AMO, safety, mine development and operations excellence teams to achieve another significant milestone in it’s mining operations.

On March 21, 2023, Nutrien’s Cory potash mine trialed a new leach cutting exemption and was successful in cutting 1,264 tonnes of leach ground. This technology enables the operations team to cut in anomalous geology safely and efficiently from the surface tele-remote station. This marks a pivotal moment in Nutrien’s operations and is the first time this has been done in the organization’s history.

Leach ground is classified as an anomaly that requires additional ground support as a proactive measure to keep Nutrien’s operators safe. This results in a significant reduction in productivity as the operators are required to cut no more than 8 meters ensuring the operators are always under bolted ground. Additionally, bolting requires a significant operator interface with the workings which leads to higher safety exposure risks. This also results in an alteration to the cutting pattern that reduces the amount of ore extracted from Nutrien’s reserves leading to further reductions in productivity.

Leach cutting trials continued March 22, 2023, when a second crew cut an additional 1,934 tonnes from the surface. This continued advancement of operationalizing tele-remote capabilities in leach ground is critical in minimizing the workforce’s exposure at the active mining face in anomalous geology. These milestones continue to demonstrate the scalability and potential of this innovative technology.

“While tele-remote technology may be utilized in other industries, our application of tele-remote in continuous mining machines is unique within our sector,” says Tyler Zimmerman, Project Lead, Automation. “This pioneering approach sets us apart and underscores our commitment to safety, innovation and continuous improvement. We are proud to be at the forefront of this technology, driving progress not only within our organization but also within the industry.”

“We continue to move forward as a network by developing technical advancements as one team with an aligned vision, building upon each other’s successes, developing a strong foundation for the operationalization of these technologies,” says Chad Litzenberger, Mine General Superintendent. “Achieving this most recent milestone aligns with our organization's safety vision by removing the worker from the active face creating a safer workplace while also increasing efficiency.”

The collective efforts of Nutrien’s AMO, mine development, safety, and operations excellence teams were essential in achieving this milestone. Working together, these departments worked closely with the sites as a network to establish robust and secure procedures for remote mining operations. Extensive procedural work and assessments were conducted to ensure that these operations could be carried out safely. The operations teams received comprehensive training on the new procedures, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to execute their tasks safely and efficiently. Concurrently, Nutrien’s network teams worked tirelessly to implement control system enhancements that enabled this remarkable feat.

"As we continue, we remain committed to further automation initiatives that will enhance our operations across our network of potash mines,” says Shannon Rhynold, VP, Potash ETC. “We are constantly exploring new possibilities and our focus remains on safety, achieving excellence, maximizing efficiency and embracing technologies that empower our workforce and propel us towards a sustainable future.”

The successful integration of tele-remote technology and the collaborative spirit of Nutrien’s teams have unlocked a new era in mining. By overcoming the challenges and implementing tele-remote technology, Nutrien has improved efficiency, enhanced safety and the potential for increased production at its network of mines. Together, Nutrien is shaping the future of mining.