Pressure from mining product end-users and regulators is increasingly proving a boon for digital traceability firms such as 11-year-old Chilean company, Antara Mining, its founder says.
“Our growth in 2022 was 40%,” Patricio Rojas told InvestMETS.com.
“We expect to grow 50-60% this year based on our new operation in Peru.
“One-third of our clients are Canadian mining companies. We have just opened our subsidiary in Vancouver, for which we have great expectations. Through it we hope to support our clients in other operations outside of Chile, and new clients in Canada and the United States.
“Next year we hope to open our subsidiary in Australia, a country that we have been studying since 2015 because they are the main producer of global mining software.”
In Vancouver to speak at the recent Digitalisation in Mining North America Conference before heading to Toronto for the Collision tech conference, Rojas told the former: “We currently manage 30% of the copper market and I hope that in the coming years we will reach 70%.
“We trace from the mine all the productive operations, weighing, characterisation, chemical analysis, etc. We integrate them into our platform and then we continue monitoring with trains, trucks, customs, the government, ports [and] all communications.”
He told InvestMETS.com Antara and its flagship Antara MP (Mining Product) emerged to address what was then seen as a gap in the market.
“We detected that the need to have visibility, traceability and support for the operations over the copper cathodes in the first stage was critical for several mining companies and almost every one of them was supported in spreadsheets, using emails and phone calls.
“That kind of management generates delays, lousy information, errors and non-auditable information.
“Antara was a spin-off of [my] consultancy company, which today no longer exists. We are focused on Antara’s global growth.”
Rojas said the company started with seven people and now had 21.
“We are bootstrappers; we are growing 100% with cash flow only,” he said.
“But we didn’t write that in stone. Maybe we will need some financial support in the near future.
“Regulatory traceability requirements are becoming very important in mining, but the final clients of mining companies are also putting heavy pressure.
“But that is not the only thing. Being more efficient to be more competitive in costs is also very important. Digitalisation, integration, AI and cloud computing are penetrating fast across the process with remarkable results. Those are the core of our solutions, adding collaboration-based design to achieve better solutions.
“We today have four platforms in our portfolio, all based on traceability and efficiency.”
Rojas said the competitive landscape in digital commodity tracing, transacting and supply chain monitoring was evolving fast.
“Our first type of competition was software made in-house [by mining and metals companies].
“These types of solutions are very difficult to replace because they are tailor-made, but they have several problems with their maintenance, support and zero evolution.
“Circulor, MineHub and DLT have developed traceability platforms based on blockchain-oriented data registered by users on a form on a desktop at the mine – or not – until the final client. They are 100% oriented to traceability data.
“We are cloud-based and focused on supporting strong users in the field at the mine, obtaining the data from other systems, through integrations, hardware, and users using mobile devices and desktops. We integrate stakeholders like laboratories, trucks, trains, customs, yards and ports for accelerated, efficient and accurate operations.
“We currently don’t reach the final client. Still, we can deliver precious data related to production, quality control, logistics, and traceability to those [other] platforms.”
Technology among megatrends reshaping mining: Newmont boss
‘AI’s accelerating advancement is creating unknown unknowns’
The CEO of gold major Newmont believes the speed of technological change around the world has all of us on the cusp of an era “as consequential and disruptive as the industrial revolution, if not more so”.
“Whilst technology has helped make our businesses safer, cleaner, more efficient and productive, the velocity of technological change today is changing social and economic dynamics in ways not seen since the industrial revolution,” Tom Palmer told the World Mining Congress in Brisbane, Queensland.
Palmer said technology was one of three mega-trends shaking the foundations of mining and society.
“We’re [miners] no longer competing with each other for talent,” he said.
“Thanks to the digital revolution, just one aspect of the technology megatrend, we now find ourselves in a global war for talent with every other industry.”
Geopolitical turbulence and greater societal expectations around transparency and value-sharing were other megatrends.
“Together, these megatrends simultaneously animate, interact with, and reinforce one another in ways we cannot predict, giving rise to a growing meta-crisis, one in which we will be expected to succeed in right now and over the long-term,” Palmer said.
“The intensity and velocity of these global megatrends are so universal and disruptive that if, as an industry, we are not agile enough to adapt, align and lead, we will risk losing control of our businesses.”
Palmer said autonomous vehicles, remote operations and asset monitoring were “critical to how we mine today and, even more so, in the future” and a US$100 million strategic alliance with Caterpillar aimed to develop and deploy battery electric openpit and underground trucks by the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, “the exponential acceleration of technological change, particularly in artificial intelligence and long language models, requires that we temper these game-changing technologies with tried and true human wisdom and robust social process, translated into people-centric, values-based decisions to responsibly govern and harness these transformational digital innovations”.
“At Newmont, we are using artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning to monitor air and water quality, as well as the condition of wildlife and other natural resources,” Palmer said.
“But like any technology, AI, including large language models like Chat GPT, are advancing and self-learning so rapidly that even their own creators are not sure how they are able to do what they do.
“Earlier this year more than 1000 technology leaders and researchers working on AI signed an open letter warning that these technologies present, and I quote, profound risks to society and humanity.
“In short, AI’s accelerating advancement is creating unknown unknowns.
“We must prepare our businesses and our workforces to responsibly navigate these technological opportunities and threats by anchoring ourselves in our core values so that we can all make moral and people-centric decisions in fast-moving and complex situations either driven or exacerbated by technology.”
MineHub sees bridge to profits
Canada’s MineHub Technologies says its revenue went from zero in Q1 last year to about C$342,000 in the three months to April 30, 2023, after its March acquisition of Waybridge Technologies and its more commercially mature digital transaction platform.
Waybridge brought more than 90 customers managing over US$7 billion of raw materials with its products. In March this year Codelco selected Waybridge as its global commercial platform after a successful pilot.
“This highly accretive transaction immediately increased our user base to more than 100 companies and has had a positive impact on the company’s revenue, which is evident in the first quarter financial results,” said MineHub CEO Arnoud Star Busmann.
“We expect cost synergies through the acquisition of Waybridge which will reduce the company’s timeline to anticipated profitability.
“In addition, we recently strengthened our balance sheet with approximately $3 million of capital investment in the company coming from $1 million from the first tranche of private placement in Q1, followed by $1 million from the second tranche and approximately $1 million from Sumitomo Corporation following the end of the quarter.”
MineHub president Andrea Aranguren said the company was “at an inflection point”.
“Our focus on growth, innovation, and customer value will propel us forward as the market leader in digitizing commodity supply chains,” she said.
Management anticipates hitting an annual recurring revenue (ARR) run rate of C$2 million this year, with up to 130 companies enrolled on its platforms, servicing the copper, aluminium and steel markets.
Orexplore adds to scanning pipeline
Australian Securities Exchange-listed Orexplore Technologies says users of its mineral core scanning technology are extending engagements in a positive sign for the fledgling enterprise.
Western Australia graphite explorer Green Critical Minerals will use Orexplore’s GeoCore X10 scanner on a further 2500m of drill core, adding to the 300m scanned so far this year, while Orexplore has also been contracted to provide ore-sorting evaluation, grade proxy modelling and graphitic flake analysis.
Rare earth company Northern Minerals has contracted Orexplore to scan 1320m of core and the supplier is working on an ore-sorting evaluation and a proof of concept for operational grade control.
The value of the two engagements is circa-A$350,000.
Modular makes way for MineStar at Bingham
Bingham Canyon copper mine operator Rio Tinto has deepened its investment in Caterpillar mobile asset management technology after opting for the machinery major’s fleet control platform instead of updating its incumbent Komatsu product.
Rio, via subsidiary Kennecott Copper, is spending US$1.5 billion at the century-old Utah mine to extend its opencut life to 2032. It expects to finish a feasibility study on underground development in 2024.
Modular Mining’s fleet management system (FMS) has been a fixture at Bingham Canyon, but Kennecott opted for Caterpillar’s MineStar FMS to improve the site’s equipment tracking, production recording, material management and truck assignment. The deployment had “further expanded the technology relationship between Caterpillar and Rio Tinto”, it said.
“For 15 years, Rio Tinto has used MineStar Terrain and has expanded its MineStar capabilities in recent years at locations like Gudai-Darri and Marandoo, autonomous mine sites in Western Australia,” Caterpillar mining technology commercial product manager, Ryan Howell, said.
“Bingham Canyon mine is the first MineStar Fleet site in Rio Tinto history, and this extends the company’s application of MineStar capabilities.”
“Even though it wasn’t the easiest route for the mine”, a cost-benefit analysis showed significant benefits long-term using MineStar Fleet, the supplier said.
System installation was incremental to minimise lost-time impact on mining operations as nearly 100 trucks plus more than 40 supporting dozers, shovels and drills were brought online with MineStar Fleet.