Q: What is the goal of the Crush It! Challenge?

A: To identify and accelerate development of the next big breakthrough mining technology or process innovation that ‘crushes’ the energy consumption of industry-standard comminution processing down by 20% or more.


Q: Why a Comminution Challenge?

A: Canada’s mining industry (especially for hard rock mining) is reliant on traditional methods of comminution (crushing and grinding), such as the ball mill, as part of the process to liberate the valuable minerals locked within extracted rock. In all of the mining, milling, smelting, and refining processes, comminution is by far the largest energy consumer, and is estimated to consume up to 4% of all the electric power generated in the world. The energy requirements of crushing and grinding rock represents a significant cost for industry, especially for those located in remote and northern regions (reliant on diesel fuel), and contributes to the sector’s production of GHG emissions. In addition, breakthrough advances in how extracted ore is ground down to a small size for mineral liberation have been limited. The Crush It! Challenge will seek to unleash new, disruptive ideas into this space, and push innovative concepts forward towards commercialization and adoption by the industry. 


Q: What is the value of the Crush It! Challenge Grand Prize?

A: The Crush It! Challenge Grand Prize is a $5 million grant awarded to the proposed clean technology solution that is evaluated to produce the largest step-change reduction in how much energy is required to crush and grind material down in a mill as part of the mineral liberation process, and which simultaneously has a clear path to market in place, and which presents the best overall opportunity to advance the industry’s productivity, efficiency, and mitigation of environmental impacts.

In addition to the $5 million Grand Prize, up to twelve (12) eligible “small-scale” innovators selected as semi-finalists will receive a bonus $10,000 micro-grant prize to help them fully develop their solution pitch and enable their participation in the Challenge.

Finally, the up to six (6) Challenge finalists selected from the semi-finalist pool to compete for the Grand Prize will be eligible to receive up to $800,000 in a contribution agreement for the purposes of supporting the development, testing, demonstration, and validation of results of their proposed solution.


Q: What is considered a ‘clean technology’ under the Impact Canada Initiative program?

A: Clean technology is defined as a product, process, or service that is less polluting or more resource-efficient than current industry practice. As a whole, the Impact Canada Clean Technology Stream is designed to drive R&D in areas such as climate change, green growth, and reducing environmental impacts.

For the mining sector, this includes critical challenges that affect the overall footprint of mining operations, such as productivity and energy efficiency. Breakthroughs in one of these areas can also improve the global competitiveness and overall environmental performance of the industry.


Q: What is considered a breakthrough or ‘step-change’ solution for the Challenge?

A: Breakthrough technologies are disruptive, high-risk, and high-reward technologies that are typically too early in their development to attract private or public sector support. They unlock a major step change in innovation to overcome pre-existing barriers within the mining innovation system. For the purposes of the Challenge, this includes any technology that aims to reduce energy consumed in the mill by 20%.


Q: What technologies will be considered for the Challenge?

A: The Challenge is technology agnostic and is open to any innovative technology or process that, when implemented at a mining operation, would produce a transformational reduction in the quantity of energy (kWh) needed for crushing and grinding mined material at a mill into a usable product for downstream liberation. So long as the end result is a comminution process that demands less energy in an operation, the Challenge is open to any idea or concept whether it be a smarter way to blast or sort ore to provide better feed to the mill, a novel grinding technique that breaks down feed particle size faster, a new approach to integrating renewables or recycling of energy at the mill, or a whole suite of new digital tools that totally optimizes the entire milling circuit efficiency.

Of interest to the program are innovative technologies or processes that propose to circumvent the need for energy-intensive particle size reduction through grinding altogether, and that could facilitate a fundamental transformation of the process of liberating valuable minerals from waste rock. Examples might include new in-situ mining, or bioleaching technologies/processes that liberate minerals without having to crush and grind the extracted ore in a mill altogether, or grinding to a larger particle size consuming less energy than industry standard.


Q: Are both R&D and demonstration projects eligible under the Crush It! Challenge?

A: Any “early stage” projects are eligible, including applied R&D, prototype development, and pre-commercial pilot projects (TRL 1 - 5).


Q: Are existing technologies allowed under the Crush It! Challenge?

A: The Challenge is structured to focus on accelerating the advancement of new ideas or underdeveloped concepts at earlier TRLs (1-4) to later TRLs (5-6). Higher TRL innovations may be considered, but innovations that are significantly advanced in terms of development and/or are on a clear path to industry adoption, or are commercially viable, are ineligible for the Challenge.


Q: How will my proposed solution be evaluated at the application stage?  

A: The Applicant’s Guide (see Applicant Guide section 2.3.2) contains detailed descriptions of each of the main criteria that will be used to assess the quality and viability of submissions to the Challenge.

The primary indicator for success is whether the applicant can provide a sufficiently compelling case that their proposed solution would result in a major step-change reduction in how much energy is needed for crushing and grinding mined material in a mill as part of the process of liberating valuable minerals from extracted ore. Applicants are challenged to push their disruptive thinking to the limit and come up with a solution that could achieve an optimal 20% reduction in the quantity of energy consumed by comminution in a mill as compared with pre-established baseline (Note: the 20% reduction is a proposed target only and is not a required baseline to compete in the Challenge).

In addition to impacts on how much energy is used in comminution, solutions will be evaluated on their overall value proposition in terms of productivity, efficiency, and environmental benefits to companies, their flexibility to be applied to many different mining operation sizes and types, as well as the strength of their plan for commercialization and path to adoption by industry. The eventual Grand Prize winner will have developed and demonstrated the solution that presents the best overall case for energy savings, productivity and environmental benefits, and market viability.

Successful applications will contain a clear and detailed description of their proposed solution, how it would address energy used in comminution, and how it represents a major innovative advance over current practices and technological concepts, backed by a strong technical analysis. It will clearly outline, with credible evidence, the anticipated economic, efficiency, and environmental gains that a company might expect by integrating the solution into their operation. It will define the market opportunities for the solution, and how the applicant would ensure that, given further development and demonstration of results, the solution can be commercialized and eventually adopted in the Canadian mining industry.


Q: Are solutions submitted to the Crush It! Challenge expected to have achieved commercialization by the end of the competition?

A: Achieving commercialization is not a required result for solutions by the end of the Challenge. However, projects will be evaluated on their potential and outlined plan for commercialization and potential partnerships supporting industry adoption after the Challenge is complete.


Q: What is required to win the $5 million Grand Prize’?  

A: If selected as one of the up to six (6) finalists, proponents will have 18 months (May 2019 – November 2020) to prototype, test, collect and validate the results of applying their solution. In November 2020, the finalists will be required to provide the Challenge Jury with a Detailed Technical Report (including all necessary supporting documentation) that clearly outlines and explains their entire development process, the project results, and their conclusions with implications for each of the main evaluation categories outlined in the Applicant Guide section 2.3.2. Finalists are not required to produce their prototype or testing equipment for the Jury, but must provide evidence that their solution has been thoroughly tested in appropriate real-world conditions, and that their results and conclusions have been certified by an accredited third party (e.g. an engineering firm) considered acceptable by the Challenge Jury.


Q: If I am selected as a Challenge semi-finalist, what will I be expected to do?  

A: If you are selected as a semi-finalist, you will be expected to develop a more fully-formed project proposal and presentation that builds off of and provides more specific details on the information provided in the initial application form.

All semi-finalists are required to attend and participate in the 2019 Goldcorp #DisruptMining event in Toronto, Ontario in March 2019. At the event, semi-finalists will meet and discuss their proposed solution in detail with Challenge Jury members and other event attendees. Semi-finalists must prepare a wide range of visual media and display materials outlining their project, including a brief 3-5 minute project overview video. Other presentation materials can include (but are not limited to) a scientific poster, visual presentation aids, handouts, scale model, and any other public-facing documentation required (e.g. proposal diagrams, technical drawings, digital models, etc.). Semi-finalists are asked to staff a small booth on the #DisruptMining event floor space to display these materials.

The Challenge Jury will review any additional materials provided by semi-finalists at #DisruptMining, together with the proponents’ initial application, to select up to six (6) finalists that will compete for the Challenge Grand Prize.


Q: If I am selected as a Challenge finalist, what are the conditions to receive the $800,000.00 in funding?  

A: If you are selected as one of the finalists, we guarantee the availability of a contribution agreement of up to $800,000. Exact funding will be based on the work plan provided as part of the application proposal and the completion of identified milestones. A contribution agreement will be negotiated between each of the finalists and Natural Resources Canada. To be eligible for a contribution agreement, the finalist must be an incorporated or registered legal entity (i.e. corporation, company).

Competition Eligibility

Q: Which organizations are eligible to apply to the Crush It! Challenge?

A: The following applicants are eligible to participate in the Challenge:

  • Legal entities duly incorporated and validly existing in Canada, including:
    • for-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as companies, industry associations and research centres;
    • Indigenous organizations and groups; and,
    • Canadian post-secondary institutions.
  • Independent innovators, unaffiliated consortium, and individuals who are a Canadian citizen(s) or permanent resident(s) of Canada.


Q: Who qualifies as a “small-scale” innovator for the purposes of receiving one of the $10,000 micro-grant prize for Round 2 of the Challenge?

A: To qualify as a “small-scale” innovator, the applicant must demonstrate they hold one of the following statuses:

  • Small Enterprises[1], including companies, industry associations, and research centres;
  • Not-for-profit organizations;
  • Indigenous organizations and groups;
  • Canadian post-secondary institutions; and,
  • Independent innovators, unaffiliated consortium, and individuals.

Self-identified “small-scale” innovators are required to submit valid documentation supporting their claim as part of their online application (see Annex D for additional information on the information required).


Q: What if I don’t have my own company or registered business?

 A: Individual Canadian citizens or permanent residents may submit an application to the Challenge for Round 1 and will be eligible to receive the $10,000 micro-grant prize as a “small-scale” innovator if their submission is selected from the initial applicant pool.

To be eligible for a contribution agreement with Natural Resources Canada for up to $800,000 in funding as a Challenge finalist, proponents are required to set up an incorporated or registered entity (i.e. corporation, company).


Q: Do I need to be part of a consortium to apply?

A: No, individual entities are eligible to submit a solution to the Challenge. However, applicants are strongly encouraged to form multiple partnerships in support of their proposal. Partners, such as mining companies, research centres, or academic institutions, can be used to leverage additional resources to develop and refine a more competitive project proposal, provide key testing facilities/materials, and strengthen the case for a path to market by committing to test and/or integrate the solution into an existing or new operation after the Challenge is completed.


Q: I am a government associated entity, can I apply for the Mining Challenge?

A: Government organizations, agencies or entities, including federal, provincial, or territorial governments, government departments, and government agencies, are not eligible to participate in the Crush It! Challenge as the project lead, but are welcome to apply as part of a project consortia. All existing government funding for the project, or pending government funding, must be documented in the appropriate section of the application form. Any federal government laboratory services required for the project must be paid for by the applicant on a fee-for-service basis without any funding provided through the Challenge.


Q: I am a foreign company; can I apply to the Crush It! Challenge?

A: Non-Canadian individuals and entities may be part of a partnership or consortium submitting a proposal as long as the project lead meets the eligibility criteria and is associated with a duly incorporated or registered legal entity in Canada.

Solution ideas and concepts can originate from anywhere globally, but to receive funding from the Challenge, the ultimate solution presented in the submission must be developed, tested, piloted, demonstrated, and deployed in Canada.


Q: Can I enter the competition after the window for applications closes?

A: No, applicants may only enter the competition between the launch of the Challenge and the application deadline on January 15, 2019. No further submissions will be considered outside of the initial pool of applicants.


Q: Can applicants with projects currently receiving funding from other public or private sources apply for the Challenge?

A: Yes, funding from multiple sources is allowed as long as you are not seeking to cover the same project costs with multiple funding sources. In other words, total sources of funding for a single project may not exceed total project costs of 100%. For this reason, applicants are required to disclose in their application any additional funds received.


Q: Do I have to provide matched funding to be eligible?

A: No, there is no requirement for matched funding to participate in the Challenge. However, it will be important to demonstrate the financial sustainability of the project described in the application.


Q: What are the anticipated timelines for selection of semi-finalists and finalists?

  • The Crush It! Challenge Launch - October 2018 
  • Call for Applications opens (Round 1 start) - October 2018
  • Call for Applications closes - January 15, 2019
  • Twelve semi-finalists announced (Round 2 start)- February 2019
  • Technical and video presentations during PDAC 2019 - March 2019
  • Six finalists announced (Round 3 start) - May 2019
  • Final submission deadline - May 31, 2021
  • Grand Prize winner announced - Summer 2021

Exact dates and additional details will be communicated through the Challenge website at: http://impact.canada.ca.


Q: How many applications will be accepted?

A: The Challenge will accept an online application from any eligible applicant submitted before January 15, 2019. Of the applications that are received, up to twelve (12) proposed projects will be selected by the NRCan Technical Review Committee to advance as Challenge semi-finalists. Unsuccessful applicants will be informed by email by early February 2019.


Q: What is the review process of the Crush It! Challenge?

A: Once received, all initial applications will be screened by a Natural Resources Canada Technical Review Committee made up of experts in the field. The Review Committee will select up to twelve (12) applications it evaluates to be the strongest projects according to the quality of the application’s information and supporting analysis, the significance of the proposed solution results against each of the Challenge criteria outlined in the Applicant Guide section 2.3.2 Key Evaluation Criteria, and the critical and technical reasoning provided.

The Challenge Team will inform those applicants that were screened into the competition as semi-finalists by early February 2019.


Q: Who will select the Challenge winners and award the prize money?

A: An independent jury made up of experts in mineral processing and mining innovation, clean technology, academia, and industry (with a maximum of three industry participants) will review the semi-finalists’ project proposals and recommend to NRCan both the up to six (6) Challenge finalists, and the Challenge Grand Prize Winner. With consideration of the Jury’s recommendation, prize money will be disbursed by Natural Resources Canada to the Challenge finalists via a contribution agreement, and to the Grand Prize winner via a grant.


Q: If I apply, how will the information I submit be used?

A: Your privacy is immensely important to us, and we respect the need for confidentiality. If you do apply, all of the information and documents submitted will only be viewed by our Technical Evaluation Committee (consisting of Government of Canada scientific and policy experts), Challenge support staff and Jury members for the purpose of applicant selection. Non-government Jury members are subject to a non-disclosure agreement covering the Challenge. Information will also be used by Natural Resources Canada, which is funding the Challenge, for program evaluation purposes.


Q: If I am selected to participate in the Challenge, will my information about my research and project – i.e. intellectual property, financial information, etc. – be kept confidential?

A: Your information will be kept confidential and will not be shared unless you have given us permission by submitting the consent form for information sharing (Annex E). By signing and submitting the permission form, applicants to the Challenge will allow Natural Resources Canada to share select information for the purposes of the challenge with other organizations who provide funding and support for innovation, such as other Government of Canada departments and the Clean Growth Hub, provincial territorial or municipal governments, and non-profits, such as Sustainable Development Technology Canada. Information provided in the semi-finalist video may be used for publicity purposes by Natural Resources Canada.


Q: Is there a screening process to ensure that the technology is not infringing on other patented technology?

A: It will be the responsibility of applicants to ensure projects do not infringe on existing patented technologies.


Q: How and where do I apply?

A: A call for proposals will open with the launch of the Challenge on October 30, 2018 and close on January 15, 2019. NRCan will only accept applications through the Impact Canada website via the designated application portal: http://impact.canada.ca.

Challenge documentation, including the Challenge applicant guide and key deadlines, is available on the Challenge website.


Q: Which documents do I need to apply?

A: In order for a proposal to be considered under the Crush It! Challenge, each applicant must submit the following information online by the closing date indicated on the Challenge website:

  • completed Crush It! Challenge application form, submitted online through the Challenge website;
  • completed online documentation for supporting applicant eligibility (see Annex C of Applicant Guide);
  • completed online additional requirements for a “small-scale” innovator, if applicable (see Annex D of Applicant Guide);
  • completed online consent form for information sharing (see Annex E of Applicant Guide); and,
  • completed online detailed project proposal and attestation form (see Annex F of Applicant Guide).

Each submission must provide sufficient detail in the online application to enable assessment against the Challenge’s Evaluation Criteria (Section 2.3.2).


Q: If I have further questions, who can I contact?

A: We realize there are other questions you may have that are not answered here. If you’d like to ask us something, email nrcan.miningchallenge-defiminier.rncan@canada.ca.

[1] A Small Enterprise is defined by Industry Canada as a for-profit organization with less than 100 employees.