Cleantech firm MineSense offers the mining industry a way to boost profits while cutting pollution

MineSense Technologies' data analytics system, which measures ore quality at mine sites, makes mills more efficient and cuts electricity and water use

An event at MineSense. Left to right: Olga Stachova, Mitacs Chief Operating Officer; Wai Young, MP for Vancouver South; Minister Michelle Rempel; and Andrew Bamber, MineSense CEO. (Source: Western Economic Diversification Canada)

MineSense Technologies’ data analytics system, which measures ore quality at mine sites, makes mills more efficient and cuts electricity and water use

Mining companies everywhere are having a tough time finding high-grade ore because others have beaten them to it. At the same time, the industry faces pressure to clean up its environmental act. MineSense Technologies Ltd. seeks to solve both of those problems. Near its headquarters in South Vancouver, the cleantech company keeps a front-end loader retrofitted with ShovelSense, a data analytics system that uses X-ray and other sensors to measure ore quality at mine sites. The system also works on conveyer belts, but MineSense is the only player with a solution for mobile equipment, explains president and CEO Jeff More.

Comparing this approach with the traditional method of taking core samples and sending them to a lab, More says it allows miners to examine ore in real time. As a result, they can find good material in areas designated as waste and preconcentrate what goes from the mine to the mill. Besides boosting revenue by making mills more efficient, the MineSense system cuts electricity and water use. It also means that less waste ends up in tailings dams.

“The mines that we’re currently working with, the impact to their bottom line that we can have on an annual basis per mine is between $20 million and $200 million,” says More, who joined MineSense last year. Clients can also reduce electricity and water consumption by 20 to 25 per cent for each mill unit produced, and tailings by up to 40 per cent, he adds.

MineSense, which focuses on base metals—copper, iron, nickel and zinc—works with mining clients in B.C. and Ontario. The 35-employee company is starting to build a small unit to support business in Chile, the world’s largest copper producer. It also recently hired a new vice-president of business development in Australia, a big mining market, and is looking at other countries.

Founded in 2008 by chief technology officer Andrew Bamber, MineSense just closed a $19-million financing round led by Chile’s Aurus Ventures. Among the other investors: Caterpillar Venture Capital—a division of the U.S. industrial equipment titan—and Vancouver-based Chrysalix Venture Capital. For mining companies, MineSense’s technology has the potential to change the economics of new projects, More says. “From an exploration perspective, that could open up more areas where they’re looking for deposits, so they may be able to find deposits that traditionally would not have been rich enough to make viable.”