Agnico to build on Abitibi Monitoring Operations Centre with a facility in Ontario for Detour Lake

Agnico Eagle has released an interesting update on its Monitoring Operations Centre roadmap as part of its commitment to digital transformation. The gold miner said it is proud to be a sustainability leader committed to ensuring every ounce of gold it produces is mined safely and responsibly. But it adds: “As we continue to build our world-class business, we must also balance these commitments with market demands and stringent production targets.”

Raymond Yip, Agnico Eagle’s Vice President of Digital Transformation says: “Technology and data are at the forefront of the change to increase productivity, efficiencies, and lower operating costs. By adopting an innovative mindset, we are able to maintain our competitive edge, share best practices, build synergies, and be proactive in maintaining our production and sustainability standards.” The key, Yip says, is to transform the way it gathers and uses information so that it gets the right information to the right people at the right time. “This will allow us to make data-driven decisions for our people, our business, and the environment. Agnico Eagle’s new Digital Transformation team is working to make that happen.”

The team combines the talents of employees across various disciplines such as engineering, geology, metallurgy, Information Technology/Operational Technology, as well as subject matter experts, and worked to establish the company’s first Monitoring Operations Centre (MOC) in the Abitibi region of Quebec, which is the foundation of Agnico Eagle’s digital transformation journey. The team is charged with adopting and implementing the latest technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to analyse past data patterns and trends to predict future behaviour. Yip says: “We expect to apply these digital tools to all areas of the business. This journey is a big leap forward into the future. It’s about transforming the way we work to ultimately bring value to the business.”

The first Monitoring Operation Centre (MOC) was launched in summer 2023 at the Preissac office (CSD) for Quebec’s Abitibi region. The centre allows Agnico Eagle to make integrated business decisions at both the operational and centralised levels. “It will enable us to monitor our entire value chain, respond quickly to site-level problems, and maintain operational excellence,” it says.

“Right now, we can’t monitor every aspect of our operations and production environment,” says Sébastien Laflamme, Advisor, Digital Transformation. The MOC – with the latest digital technology – will give us that in-depth monitoring capacity. It will bring everyone together in one centre and enhance their ability to make more informed and integrated decisions. It will allow the team, for example, to ask a question such as, ‘If we use fewer explosives at the mine face, does the crusher need more energy to break the ore?’ In other words, what is the impact of my decision on your department?”

The MOC provides additional tools and monitoring functions, which will allow employees to monitor all aspects of a machine and make the entire production process more stable. Agnico Eagle stated: “It will provide a more accurate, real-time overview of what is happening on and beneath the surface. Right now, control room employees can only react when an alarm or sensor trips, or when a green light turns to red, which is often too late. With digital monitoring capacity, they’ll be able to see if there’s an underlying problem or deviation – for example a vibration issue – which could create a failure in the future if it’s not addressed immediately. By proactively dealing with these issues, Agnico Eagle can avoid damaged equipment, costly production delays, a safety issue or even an environmental disaster.”

Working closely with the LaRonde team, new job roles and functions have been identified and defined to accelerate the concept. The first full-time employees are now working out of the MOC, with additional job functions such as reliability and mine planning transferring from the mine site to the centre in the coming months. Teleremote operations will also slowly transition to the centre, furthering Agnico Eagle’s desire to improve safety and minimise exposure of workers.

With the first regional MOC having been established for the Abitibi region, the Digital Transformation team will replicate the model for other regions where Agnico Eagle operates. The team is currently working with the Ontario region to develop a second MOC at Detour Lake Mine, with a target to have it established in 2024.

Yip comments: “While these initiatives are about technology, in my mind this is really a change management endeavour. We’ll need the support of our people to make it a success. The centre exists to give our people the tools and information they need to make better decisions for our workplace, and for our company.”

Agnico Eagle’s digital transformation journey is expected to uncover synergies between its global operations, allowing it to do more with less. “A team in Australia, for example, could help its counterpart in Quebec analyse and solve a problem by sharing best practices, without ever leaving the country. Not only will this digital transformation improve our decision making, but it will also provide a stronger foundation for Agnico Eagle’s financial and Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) reporting. In the marketplace, the competitive advantage will go to the company that can accurately report on its carbon footprint and reductions, and its plans to achieve carbon neutrality along its entire value chain.”

Nancy Guay, Agnico Eagle VP Technology Optimisation and Innovation states: “Our innovative mindset combined with the digital tool – the data – will create a fantastic environment for our people to grow and demonstrate our value of trust, respect, equality, family and responsibility. All while maintaining our high standards in operations, health & safety, and sustainability. The Monitoring Operations Centre, the MOC, combined with our data analytic capability, are pivotal to ensure cohesion between all our ongoing initiatives such as core scanning, AU, fleet management systems (FMS), Deswik etc. For us, that project perfectly fits our vision to transform our business and not only from a digital point of view. It was a long journey that will help to create more opportunity. Agnico Eagle has always embraced innovation and leveraged technology to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability. This will maintain Agnico Eagle at the forefront of the digital transformation and a leader in the gold industry.”

Yip continues: “Technology and data are at the forefront of the change to increase productivity, efficiencies and lower operating costs. At Agnico Eagle, our digital transformation journey is focused on optimising our operations. By utilising IoT sensors and other technologies, we’re gathering various points of data from all aspects of our mining operations. We then take the data, centralise it into a data lake, and using state of the art AI and machine learning capabilities, we’re able to provide our operational teams with data that will help them make data driven decisions. Its about getting the right information in the hands of the right people at the right time. For us the Centre is more than just a room: the MOC is a vision, a philosophy.”

Christian Goulet, GM at the Agnico Eagle LaRonde operation: “Since 2018, with the addition of several new technologies, for us the Centre will be the ultimate tool to manage the data we’ve been gathering for several years and to continue to improve our productivity, control our costs and guarantee a safe operating environment for our workers. Today, with the advent of the Monitoring Operation Centre, we are confident that we will offer exciting, quality jobs, as well as safe and perennial working operations.”

Laflamme adds: “The MOC is for me a tool I dreamed to have as a superintendent, a tool that gives more visibility on our operation and to understand the impact of each decision across the chain of value. The main function of the Monitoring Operation Centre is to collect and house data that is accessible to everyone, and to turn the data into information that will detect deviations to make timely adjustments when needed. Just by adding visibility and analysing the data that we already have, we will be able to realise improvements to the operations. With digital monitoring capability, teams can easily identify an underlying problem or deviation. We are currently developing a methodology and expertise with the first Monitoring Operating Centre and that’s just the first step of our journey. We will adapt according to different region needs and scale it. People are already engaged and motivated to work in the new environment.”

Simon Lambert, Superintendent, Surface Projects and Asset Management commented: “The people who are going to be joining the team have been working in their departments for a number of years and now they want to bring their expertise into other departments and that’s what really motivates everyone who’s going to be working in the MOC. Now the MOC will help us improve productivity by increasing usage of the assets across the whole value chain as we get real time data.”

Yan Cabot, General Superintendent, Underground Maintenance and Optimisation stated: “We will optimise our assets since we’ll be able to enhance our diagnostic level and to improve the evaluation of our underlying cause analysis. We’re really proud to be the first operation involved with this project and to have the opportunity to develop this knowledge base that will help share the information and pool our expertise for the Abitibi region.”

Yip concludes: “In order to increase efficiencies, we need to transform the way we work with the data, decreasing the amount of time it takes for people to prepare the reports and giving the more time to focus on analysing the data. In order to do this, we need to adopt a new way of thinking. Data democratisation is about making data more accessible and available to people than ever before. Its about enabling our people with direct access to data that’s relevant to them and their respective functions. By doing this, we’re empowering them with tools they can use to analyse the data faster and more effectively than ever before. Its much more effective to teach people to fish instead of doing the fishing for them.”