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Australian tech firms spearhead mining efficiency & sustainability
Wed, 7th Feb 2024

Small Australian tech companies are emerging as crucial partners for global miners, driving efficiency and sustainability within the industry. These homegrown innovators are utilising technology to increase mining productivity while also prioritising environmental sensitivity and worker safety.

Plotlogic, birthed from the PhD research of founder Dr. Andrew Job, has quickly become a global leader in the field of ore characterisation. With its AI-driven OreSense platform, the company is setting new standards in the industry. This advanced system leverages LiDAR and hyperspectral imaging technology, combined with machine learning algorithms, to deliver immediate and highly accurate breakdowns of ore content.

The OreSense platform is contained in a freestanding unit roughly the size of a microwave oven. This compact device can be deployed in a range of scenarios, including core shed, sample preparation areas, or even mounted on a light vehicle next to a drill rig. Proving its effectiveness, OreSense can scan surfaces, including underground mine faces, blasthole samples, reverse circulation chips, and drill cores, providing real-time feedback in approximately two minutes.

This groundbreaking technology caught significant attention in July, securing a whopping $US28 million during a Series B funding round. The funds are being judiciously directed towards expanding critical minerals operations in Australia, North America, and Indonesia throughout 2024.

A successful initiative within Australia's mining sector is the revamping of drone use. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has implemented a new drone pilot exam this year, making certification simpler for operators intending to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and outside controlled airspace. This critical development is expected to bring substantial productivity gains for resources companies and lessen carbon emissions.

Global Drones Solutions, a Perth-based service company, has seen a sizeable increase in inquiries following the introduction of the new BVLOS exam. Mining companies now frequently use drones to survey stockpiles, carry out condition reports on mining equipment, and check for potential issues, greatly enhancing worker safety. Additionally, drones can expedite the assessment of incidents in remote locations, such as the bottom of a pit, thus enabling quick and informed responses.

Advanced geographic information systems (GIS) have also emerged as powerful tools for mining and exploration. A frontrunner in this space is Libertas Infinity, a company that specialises in economical web-based GIS mapping systems for small-to-medium-sized mining and exploration ventures. These systems allow different parties to collaborate using updated spatial data, ensuring consistent and reliable information.

Shane Delany, co-owner of Libertas Infinity emphasised that their GIS system extends the same capability as expensive commercial enterprise GIS systems, but at a fraction of the cost. Using cloud-based technology, their system can source spatial data hosted on an Australian-hosted database from anywhere in the world.

The broad scopes of the services offered by these small tech companies are truly helping power big gains for major miners. They have been instrumental in manoeuvring the industry into the fast lane on the road to net-zero, demonstrating how tech can turbocharge the efforts of mining companies to be more sustainable and efficient.