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SaskPolytech harnesses power of A.I. for uranium mining


Saskatchewan Polytechnic is blazing a trail in the field of artificial intelligence with one of the biggest projects the school has ever taken on.

Sask Polytech’s digital integration centre of excellence, or DICE, is working with Cameco to help them refine the process used to get uranium out of the ground in northern Saskatchewan.

“Our job was to take all the different types of data that Cameco has,” said DICE research chair Terry Peckham. “Put all of that together and then train our computer system to figure out the best way to create the best shape for that jet-boring machine to cut the ore out.”

“This is a very unique-to-Saskatchewan problem, and a made-in-Saskatchewan solution to go with it.”

The AI gathers data from different mines, learns the patterns, and then takes an educated guess as to the best way for the jet-boring machine to mine the uranium.

Cameco says it’s one of the world’s largest producers of uranium for nuclear energy, most from northern Saskatchewan.

Cameco’s director of government relations and communications Jeff Hryhoriw said it's a common challenge in the uranium mining industry to capture as much valuable ore as possible while minimizing the amount of unusable material that must be removed.

“Our work with SaskPolytech is aimed at fine tuning this system to make it more predictable and efficient, so this will be incredibly valuable to Cameco, saving money, reducing waste and improving our cost competitiveness.”

Peckham says DICE is part of the equation in Canada becoming one of the major international leaders in AI, adding that Saskatchewan’s tech industry is commonly being referred to as Silicon Prairie.

“Within the field of artificial intelligence, there is this transferability of techniques,” he said.

“We're able to take some of the things that we've learned here and transfer them to other completely different sectors of work, because the problems, although they're different, they're similar enough at their core that we're able to utilize what we've done here and utilize it in other areas as well.”

Peckham says the petroleum, manufacturing, and cybersecurity industries could all be areas where DICE’s work in artificial intelligence will see gains.

“They're all really learning to adopt artificial intelligence in the last few years, and so it's been a big push by a lot of these organizations to see how they can leverage the advantages of using artificial intelligence,” he said. Top Stories

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