Contract mining major Perenti isn’t ready to paint too grand a picture of the future for its fledgling technology subsidiary yet, but the president of the business is quietly confident about the outlook for the next two years.
“I’m a bit excited about what it looks like,” idoba’s Sarah Coleman told InvestMETS.com ahead of this week’s group strategy briefing.
Two years after the joining of a handful of small Western Australian mining tech and service firms to form idoba, the team under Coleman has swelled to 160 and the business is growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) and consulting revenues.
This week’s Perenti analyst briefing heard idoba is working to build a sales pipeline for digital products developed under its DiiMOS (Distributed, Intelligent, Integrated Mining Operating System) brand. It is generating annual recurring revenues (ARR) from one of these products, Dynamic Driver Modelling, or DDM, and has two more in pilot testing, including the Mine Performance Navigator development sponsored by Japanese trading giant and idoba shareholder, Sumitomo Corporation.
It is also earning income from the Orelogy consulting business, said to have more than 70 mining clients worldwide.
“FY24 is really about how we get those [DiiMOS] products into market, how we start scaling them and how we get that traction and grow locally and internationally,” Coleman said.
“That’s where our focus is going to be.
“We’re moving in a sense from an incubation phase into a full-blown business development phase.
“We’ve had some early successes [and] there are some great early signs.”
Coleman told analysts this week idoba could be unique in a mining technology landscape that has been reshaped in recent years by unprecedented tech-sector M&A activity – led by mining equipment manufacturers and non-mining IT players – and heightened ESG pressures on miners.
“idoba is one of only mining technology companies we are aware of with direct access to extensive operational data sets to build our digital products upon,” she said.
“While we know some large mining OEMs have access to funding and have been acquiring a lot of digital technology companies, the one thing they lack is direct access to the executional datasets.
“Why is this important? Well, much like ChatGPT used all of the language from the internet to train its AI algorithms, we are using all of Perenti’s years and years of operational data to train our AI algorithms and turn them into scalable digital products that can be used internally, and generate annual recurring revenue externally.
“The value of being connected to some of the world’s best mining operators through Barminco and Ausdrill is the opportunity to focus on, and digitally and mathematically model the behaviours and interactions that really drive world class performance.”
The value of access to a “playground” of operational sites allowing idoba to substantially de-risk products and make them operationally robust cannot be overstated.
Perenti CEO Mark Norwell observed this week that in many years in mining operational management positions before his appointment to lead Perenti in 2018 he’d been exposed to products and concepts from suppliers that might have been good for business but which were met with a consistent “no” due to lack of operational references.
It has been a perennial challenge for all sorts of new tech in mining.
Environmental, social and governance pressures are changing the attitude of some in the industry to trialling and potentially failing faster (or succeeding) with tech. But mining is still behind others in its efforts to fast-track innovation.
“We’re seeing ESG drive a real redefinition of core value drivers and instigating significant organisational transformation,” Coleman said.
“In my view ESG is a big revolution that is happening and digital is the response to that revolution.
“Up until now mining operations have been measured on the value levers of cost, volume and quality. However, with the onset of ESG, those value levers and how business is measured will increase significantly.
“While we’ll still have cost, volume and quality, we’ll also have emissions, energy, water and social. The levers for optimisation will become far too great for the human mine alone to cognitively manage, and today’s organisational constructs will need to shift.
“Decisions will no longer be able to be made in isolation.
“For example, if a maintenance manager decides to reduce costs over here, but that increases emissions over here, how do you actually manage that trade-off?
“All parts of the operations value chain will need to be integrated, intelligently and digitally connected, and information seamlessly distributed to the key decision makers across all levels of the business.”
Coleman maintains technology, particularly the Akumen data science and decision support platform idoba picked up via its Optika Solutions acquisition, is not the only key differentiator for the new kid on the mining-tech block.
Glencore’s Canada-based global zinc and lead business head, Aline Cote, recently emphasised at an AusIMM conference in Perth the importance of “diversity of thought” as a potential game-changer in an industry in which corporate decision makers had had “a tendency to feel the same and look the same” for generations.
“People will use gender as a proxy [but] diversity is diversity of thought [and] diversity of culture,” Cote said.
“If you bring diversified thinking around you, you’ll end up de-risking naturally your decision-making process.”
Coleman said idoba’s 160-strong team was more than 40% female, 25% neuro-diverse and had representation from at least 27 nationalities.
“Our team members’ age ranges from 17 to 72.
“That’s diversity of thought,” she said.
“The way that we’re bringing together diverse thinking, and combining a deep industry knowledge set with some really out-of-the-box thinking … is our real advantage.
“Akumen enables us to actually leverage that diversity of thought and that different thinking with a view that we can solve some of the industry’s long-standing problems once and for all and also get in a unique position to start solving these bigger problems that are coming at us.”