Global Mining Tech Awards: The winners

Richard Roberts

Editor in chief

The first global awards recognising mining-tech leaders reflects a changing landscape

Votes are in and tallied for the 2023 Global Mining Technology Awards, presented by in conjunction with Atrico. The sponsor of our major award, for Best Mining Technology Company, is IMARC. We sincerely thank our experienced panel of judges in the US, Canada, Chile, Colombia, UK, Sweden, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Australia and Singapore. Now for the winners …

The Best Mining Technology Company for 2023 is Epiroc, which got the nod from our judges ahead of Hexagon. Both are headquartered in Sweden; both have been among the leading consolidators of mining-tech firms around the globe over the past five years.

Epiroc has added more than US$600 million of annual tech revenues – derived from mining software and communications, sensing, automation and control, and battery-electric vehicle (BEV) products and services – to its legacy mining machine control and safety systems business.

CEO Helena Hedblom says technology is key to customers’ machine utilisation and safety improvements, and ultimately the value they derive from investing in Epiroc equipment. That, in turn, will drive deeper, higher-value engagement between the manufacturer and its client base.

Some large mining original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are describing themselves as “technology” companies. Epiroc’s expanding technology arm has scale that others lack. It is clearly defined and investors understand the company’s strategy. It is evidently leveraged to mining’s automation, digitalisation and electrification transition, which is expected to gather speed over the next five years.

And if the industry’s future is indeed underground, Epiroc is in prime position to be its dominant, technology-led equipment supplier over the next decade or two. It is not unreasonable to expect demand for robotic, precision-run, underground primary extraction machinery to skyrocket in that period.

Epiroc has the equipment – and the technology – to be the first to elevate an underground mining supply business to the lofty levels of surface-machine giants such as Caterpillar and Komatsu.

“The mining industry is really in a transformative phase now, and we are happy to play a key role with our solutions”

In a statement, Hedblom said: “Technology in various forms is crucial to make the mining industry safer and more productive.

“At Epiroc, we invest more than ever in R&D, and the vast majority of these investments are within the areas of automation, digitalisation and electrification.

“Automation goes a long way to take operators away from dangerous situations and make the operations more efficient. Digitalisation is crucial for example to optimise the mine planning process, utilise the machines better, and enable solutions such as collision avoidance. And electrification is increasingly popular among our mining customers to remove emissions from operations, which not only benefits the climate but also enables a healthier work environment for operators with less fumes, noise and vibrations, as well as reducing ventilation costs, which tend to be substantial, especially for underground operations.

“Epiroc realises we cannot solve all these technological challenges ourselves, so in addition to our organic R&D, we focus a lot of our acquisitions on companies that are leaders within these tech areas.

“We also collaborate closely with customers, suppliers and other thought leaders to advance the latest technologies.

“The mining industry is really in a transformative phase now, and we are happy to play a key role with our solutions.

“We appreciate very much being recognised for this by InvestMETS’s Global Mining Tech Awards.”

Epiroc and Hexagon were well clear of the next rung of leaders, Imdex and Datamine, in our voting.

Best start-up

In the best start-up category, Datarock pipped Fleet Space Technologies in the collective view of our voters.

In the past four years the Australian mining software developer has grown its headcount fivefold, to about 50 people. Sales have been rising at a 115% CAGR in that period.

ASX-listed Imdex spent A$5.5 million acquiring 30% of Datarock in 2021 and a year later outlaid a further $2m to increase its stake to c42%. It now has close to 50%.

Imdex has a substantial global sales footprint that is helping Datarock grows its revenues.

Datarock adds a unique dimension to Imdex’s expanding rock-knowledge surveying and analytical armoury. The latter says Datarock’s cloud-based platform applies artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate extraction of geological and geotechnical information from drill-core imagery and other media. The automation creates “high-value datasets” that improve operational efficiency at mines.

Best scale-up

UK-based IntelliSense was our standout scale-up leader for 2023. China’s Eacon Mining Technologies was a clear second.

Headquartered in Cambridge, England, IntelliSense describes itself as an “industrial AI company focused on the mining and metals industry with a mission to empower people and machines to make better and more reliable decisions”. Its journey has really accelerated since 2020 when BASF Venture Capital, part of German chemical giant BASF, led a strategic investment round and entered into a collaboration arrangement with IntelliSense.

The UK company’s headcount has tripled to c110 people in the past three years. Its sales are said to have more than doubled in the past two years.

“The focus is now on getting us to EBIT by 2025,” CEO Sam Bose said in mid-2023.

The company’s mine operations optimisation digital platform uses “scientific AI” to drive superior outcomes. “Scientific AI is a breakthrough development in AI technology pioneered by that fuses together mechanistic [first principle or physics] models with machine learning techniques to uniquely provide real-time predictive intelligence.”

Best new tech/innovation

Potential disruptor of the traditional diesel mine-truck market, First Mode, won our inaugural Best New Technology/Innovation Award for its Hybrid EV (HEV) retrofit product solution for significantly and quickly cutting mine diesel fuel use via heavy vehicle power-train modification.

Judges had different reasons for awarding First Mode top votes over other shortlisted nominees, but generally its value proposition matched to a potentially very large market gave it an edge over second-place getter, Portable PPB, and earlier-stage market testers such as 2023 start-up Hermes and Soteria (third).

First Mode, headquartered in Washington state, USA, says a HEV retrofit can “immediately reduce mining’s use of diesel by up to 30%” and provide a platform for delivery of its battery EV (BEV) or hydrogen fuel cell EV (FCEV) retrofits when commercially available.

The company said late in 2023 successful demonstration of its proof-of-concept HEV mining truck paved the way for pilot-scale deployments in 2024 and commercial release, as previously scheduled, in 2025. First Mode’s shared HEV battery pack would also be used in its FCEV and BEV systems.

Best mining tech financing

This award was a real toss-up between the three top nominees, Chrysos Corporation, KoBold Metals and Fleet Space Technologies, with Chrysos coming out marginally ahead in the voting for its A$75 million (US$50 million) public equity raise to give its global roll-out of PhotonAssay non-chemical mineral-sample analysis units extra impetus.

ASX-listed Chrysos raised at a c7.7% discount at A$6.60 a share but was at or above $8-a-share for most of the remainder of 2023.

Strong demand for PhotonAssay machines, led by the likes of gold major Barrick Gold, which has been an advocate for the technology, means Chrysos is deploying them as quickly as it can produce the units. It expects to have c38 units operating by the end of June, 2024. Revenue for FY24 could top $58 million; EBITDA has been projected at $7-17 million.

KoBold Metals’s US$195 million private equity raise – described by one judge as a “deal that changed the mining exploration technology landscape” – drew support from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. The company has raised $400 million to take AI-backed mineral discovery data analysis to predominantly brownfield mine/resource targets to try to speed reserve definition and improve recovery efficiency.

The latest equity raise was said to have come at a US$1.15 billion valuation.

Best mining tech M&A

Imdex’s strategic US$242 million 2023 acquisition of Norway’s Devico was the standout mining-tech deal of the year. Votes for Imdex-Devico were more than double those for Veracio’s US$29.3 million acquisition of Sweden’s Minalyze and Hexagon’s estimated US$75 million acquisition of Canada’s Hard-Line.

Imdex’s Devico acquisition price implied a CY22 EV/EBITDA multiple of c11.2x and EV/EBITA multiple of about 12.8x, before synergies. Imdex said revenue synergies were expected to deliver value to its shareholders through cross-selling and accelerated R&D development.

Estimated cost efficiencies of about A$2m per annum, equal to c7% of Devico’s CY22 EBITDA), would arise from office consolidation, supply chains, sourcing, manufacturing, and the ability to leverage Imdex’s operating systems across the Devico network.

Mining-tech landscape

The global mining-tech landscape has changed massively over the past four years, with an unprecedented $3.2 billion-plus of private and public equity financing and more than $4.8 billion of mergers and acquisitions.

Our recent review of more than 500 mining-tech vendors found many had been swallowed up by the 250 or so current leaders in the space in more than 100 recent (past four years) transactions.

The mining and metals industry is going to place tremendous demands on this international mining-tech supply ecosystem over the next decade.

Indications are that the leaders are far better positioned – financially and technologically – to meet these demands than at any stage over the past 20 years.

Our analysts and network of market observers sees significant further market consolidation in the years ahead, as tech adoption rates continue to escalate. They also think start-up and growth funding is going to flow more readily and steadily into the space on the back of early-mover successes and further evidence of accelerated mining industry adoption rates.

We look forward to recognising some new names in the years ahead.


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