Everything about mining is big: big machines, huge sites, major global corporations, enormous end-markets, and lots of jobs. Our reliance on industrial metals is so important for the roll out of new energy technologies that some countries are already collaborating to tackle “metals shortage risk”.
However, resource extraction also has big issues in terms of human safety, biodiversity loss, politics, pollution and emissions. So, in our drive to move away from fossil fuels and polluting transport systems, it seems like we’re creating a problem by solving another. The good news is that there’s lots of innovation happening that can enable responsible resource extraction.
In this blog we’d like to highlight some innovative companies helping drive efficiencies along the mining value chain.
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OK, commercial break over. Here goes:
Find minerals 100x cheaper and faster than traditional mineral exploration. EARTH AI identifies copper, zinc and vanadium mineral prospects using their breakthrough mineral targeting technology. Their technology combines continent-wide remote sensing, geophysical and exploration datasets with machine learning. This early stage Australian company is showing traction in the field and has raised a A$1.7m seed round.
Imagine a digital twin of the planet, allowing you to monitor the whole earth, and if you want, also mine tailings. That is exactly what Descartes Labs is building using satellite imagery and their cloud based “Data refinery”. This is just one of the applications of their platform which is designed to apply machine intelligence to massive datasets. This US company was founded in 2014 and has raised $38.3 million to date.
Mining without tailings? That’s the promise of DeepGreen, a Canadian company focused on harvesting polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor and then efficiently extracting and producing high-grade manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt products using their hydrometallurgical processing technology. Sounds like a long shot? $150 million funding and a recently announced partnership with Allseas suggests otherwise.
*DeepGreen merged with Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corporation and is called The Metals Company since 2021.
EnviroMetal Technologies has developed an environmentally friendly solution to extract precious and strategic metals from ores, concentrates and eWaste. Their patent pending closed loop process can eliminate the use of cyanide in the precious metal mining industry. The company was spun out of Mineworx in 2016 and despite it’s relatively early stage already has a listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange.
If you’re still using cyanide for gold mining, at least it makes sense to optimize its use. Enter Cyanoguard, a Swiss company that has developed “Cyanosmart”: a mobile quantitative cyanide monitoring system combining hardware, consumables, connectivity and data analytics. Monitor and reduce your cyanide usage.
Movus calls it the fitbit of industrial machines. Their continuous condition monitoring solution “Fitmachine” helps minimise unplanned downtime and reduce maintenance costs. Their sensor monitors vibration, temperature and noise, is installed with a magnet, and sends data wirelessly, which is then processed using machine learning and visualized in the Movus dashboard. Founded in Australia in 2015 and developed with $3.5m of funding.
Emesent’s Hovermap enables drones to autonomously fly, map and inspect challenging and GPS-denied underground environments like mines. This eliminates the need to send people into potentially hazardous areas. This Australian company was founded in 2018 and has already raised A$3.5m.
Winner of the Mining Cleantech Challenge 2017 in Denver, Colorado with their next-generation containerized ORC for the mining sector. Triogen’s e-box converts unused exhaust heat from diesel generators into electric power. A single unit saves over 300.000 litres of diesel per year with a 2-year payback. This Dutch cleantech company has references in the field and is partnering with leading genset rental companies.
If we’ve used up all the resources on earth, there’s always still the moon! Moon Express has raised over $65m of funding to develop robotic spacecraft systems and a maiden mission to deliver payloads to the lunar surface at a fraction of the cost of government programs. Longer term plans include a permanent post on the moon for exploration of resources.
Expand the useful life of mine shafts by using them for kinetic energy storage. Gravitricity is a UK based company that has developed a novel storage technology which offers some of the best characteristics of lithium batteries and pumped storage. Round trip efficiency of ca. 90%, sub-second response time, lower costs than batteries and output duration of up to 8 hours make this an interesting storage solution for intermittent renewables.
If you’re in the reclamation phase of a mine, why not use the autonomous tree planting technology of Skygrow? Their unique land restoration system claims to be able to plant trees 10x faster and up to 50% of the cost compared to traditional tree planting methods. This Australian company is still quite early stage, so will be interesting to see how they develop.
OK, it was 11 companies instead of 10, but that’s us, we like to overdeliver :-). If you’ve spotted an interesting company and would like to understand their competitive landscape and how they compare – get in touch!