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Sensing digital revolution in mining

What are the chances of two ambitious but very different businesses finding each other across the Atlantic? Rather slim, if it were not for EUREKA, which backed a project to test and roll out an innovative iron-ore ‘sensing’, sorting and communication system.

MineSense, a Canadian mining technology development and marketing company, teamed up with engineering and detection specialists, Ketek of Germany, to launch the High-Speed X-Ray Fluorescence (HSXRF) project.

MineSense reached out to Ketek in 2015 and, together, they field-tested and, in early 2017, delivered a next-generation iron-ore detector and integrated solution which boosts performance by up to 20% and saves on energy, water and chemical use.

“We both realised quickly that this is a challenge and an opportunity we should not miss. The twofold approach from the technology side and the application side was a perfect match right from the beginning,” said Reinhard Fojt, Managing Director of Ketek, about the partnership.

[It] not only makes mining low-grade ore feasible, it optimises the whole decision-support process

The ground-breaking sensor technology and data analytics platform evolving from the project now provides mining operations with unprecedented real-time information about their ore deposits.

As an emerging global player in mineral telemetry and ore upgrading, MineSense’s system not only makes mining low-grade ore feasible, it optimises the whole decision-support process. Penetrating deep into the ground, the sensitive XRF detector provides accurate real-time ore grade data, which means higher yields and, combined with connected machinery like scoops, belts, feeders and chutes, helps to separate unwanted waste from the valuable minerals at an early stage of the mining process.

Attracting attention

Not surprisingly, MineSense’s solutions have attracted the attention of investors and customers. Company CEO Jeff More announced early in 2017 that MineSense had sealed a $CAN19 million finance deal, led by Aurus Ventures alongside Caterpillar Venture Capital – the investment arm of the mining equipment giant – and existing investors, Chrysalix Venture Capital, Cycle Capital Management, Prelude Ventures and Export Development Canada.

“Having a major player like Caterpillar as a new strategic investor provides a strong partner with global reach. We are also thrilled to have the continued support of our existing investors,” noted More in a statement.

“This is one of the most exciting new technologies to come into the mining sector with the potential of significantly improving the industry's profitability,” remarked Victor Aguilera, Managing Director of Aurus Ventures, following the deal.

Clean, lean sorting machine

The integrated sensing and communication platform, designed around the XRF detecting and sorting technology, has the ability to generate unparalleled ‘whole mine’ datasets which can also be used for better planning and modelling. It can monitor changes to the ore body on a daily basis, identify differences in mineralogy, and look for trends to optimise various operations within the mine.

Ketekis working on further refinements to the XRF technology and on expanding the portfolio of applications for semiconductor sensors in the optical area with its Silicon Photomultipliers.

“Having an industrial partner with a shared passion for digital innovation to test our prototypes and devices in demanding sectors can mean the difference between success and failure,” concluded Fojt. 

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