SUDBURY -- A multi-billion dollar telecommunications company is joining forces with the province and NORCAT to test some of the latest and innovative technology in an underground working mine.

On Thursday, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford helped launch the CENGN Smart Mining Testbed as part of the Next Generation Network Program.

Nokia will be helping to test state-of-the-art wireless communications in a bid to help companies develop and commercialize new technologies.

It will include wearable sensors for detecting poisonous gases, drone mine mapping and automated ore sorting.

"The Smart Mining Testbed will play a key role in developing technologies that push the boundaries of traditional mining practices and create good jobs and opportunities in Ontario," said Rickford.

The government's Next Generation Network Program is a partnership between the Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN) and the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

"Nokia is thrilled to be joining forces with CENGN and NORCAT to really further mining innovation in Northern Ontario and in Sudbury here in particular at the NORCAT innovation hub," said Nokia's Calin Miculescu.

Miculescu says they're looking forward to working with their partners in a bid to further LTE technology underground.

"Nokia will be participating in several ways, we're looking forward to working with small and medium enterprises all across Ontario that are looking for a testbed to test their innovations before they can go out and commercialize that solution and we're hoping that the investments Nokia, along with CENGN and NORCAT, have made here will enable this ecosystem of devices to be brought to the market," said Miculescu. "And we look forward to bringing some of our customers and clients who we work with on a daily basis through the NORCAT facilities for them to see what the digital mine of the future could look like in  their operations."

This is the first public venture Nokia has taken underground.

"CENGN has been funded by the Ontario government to help advance the commercialization of new technologies and smart industries and today we're here to announce the deployment of smart connectivity in the NORCAT mine in Sudbury," said Richard Waterhouse, vice-president of CENGN. "Nokia is one of our technical partners that was selected through a fairly rigorous process that will deploy technology in the mine to allow for smart mining technology to be showcased and tested in a real-world mining environment."

Waterhouse says all of the things that are taken for granted above ground become complicated in a mining environment, so modern communications technology in the mining environment will allow for smart applications to be deployed and tested.

"The mandate of the NORCAT underground centre is to provide that place for big or small tech companies to develop and test and/or demonstrate and showcase emerging technologies that will transform a global mining industry and today's investment in part by the Ontario government partnered with CENGN and Nokia and NLT really demonstrates that this is the future, this is the transformation that the mining industry is going through," said Don Duval, NORCAT president and CEO.

It's the first opportunity NORCAT has had to work with both Nokia and NLT Digital.