Newtrax heads to Europe and the Middle East with the help of Charlie Forrest
After 15 years of implementing technology solutions in various mining operations to improve productivity and safety underground, Charlie Forrest found himself a new position with Newtrax Technologies.
As the new VP of Europe and the Middle East for Newtrax, Charlie Forrest, talks about his focus on the mines in this area. “They want to improve, but they are just starting to look at digitization.” The opportunities for implementing innovative technology in mining in this new region are to instill safety and productivity by finding out where to cut down on costs and how to prevent accidents – digitally.
“Many of the mines in the area are looking at vehicle telemetry and payload as opportunities for technology in their mines,” he said. “Most countries are looking for a whole portfolio of solutions, but while gas monitoring and geotechnical monitoring is important, the main thing we can provide to these operations is our Mobile Equipment Telemetry (MET) systems.”
Newtrax Mobile Equipment Telemetry (MET) solutions gather data from mining equipment to gauge how each piece of this equipment is operating. The data collected will inform European & Middle Eastern mining companies how efficiently and effectively the equipment is currently being used. The ultimate goal is to increase productivity which will positively impact the bottom line by using the underground equipment in the most optimized way possible.
Scandinavian companies have already started adopting new technologies in underground mining, as they seem to be culturally less risk-averse than surrounding countries. The early adoption of LTE in Sweden and Finland is a good indicator that the trends in wireless networking will be doing towards that direction.
IoT Challenges in the Region
Europe and the Middle East have many opportunities to improve when it comes to data acquisition from their underground mines. Charlie admits that implementing technology in countries that are behind on innovation can be difficult to achieve due to cultural sensitivities. Companies like Newtrax need to be present locally to better understand how each unique country perceives technology adoption and what their preferred course of action may be.
“It is all commodity driven in these areas right now,” said Charlie. “Turkey has quite a lot of gold and gold mines right now. Serbia is also opening up a number of mines. Multinational mining companies, like Rio Tinto, are also looking into the area to open operations. But, fortunately, Newtrax is active with many of these mines which makes working in a diversified region a bit easier.”
Taking highly technical equipment into different areas of the world can be a challenge as well. For instance, when equipment goes into Europe, it must be certified. There needs to be a CE sticker that goes on each safety device heading into the region. This is required to ensure the products being sold in the European Economic Area are within conformity of health, safety, and environmental protection standards. Newtrax is working closely with these mining companies to make sure all products conform to each country’s regulations and comply with all requirements needed to be safely deployed.
A Culture of Success in the Region
One of the first successes using technology in mining was the “Taking the Lid off” plan at Chelopech in Bulgaria. This project involved a wireless communications network that covered almost the entire mine. The network allowed the supervisors to plan up to three months in advance with detailed tasks to be completed. The managers sent the tasks to the operators through the wireless network which was received on a tablet. The equipment was tracked using tags inside cap lamps or vehicles. This way the supervisor could locate the operator.
Dundee Precious Metals CEO, Rick Howes, wrote in a 2016 press release, “Using wireless technologies for communications and location tracking, along with smart connected equipment and sensors, we now have the ability to see past rock to what is happening in real-time throughout the mine. This allows for far better decisions to be made about the use of resources to achieve our goal of safe and cost-effective production.
Although risks had to be taken to make these advances, they pale in comparison to the many other risks that mining faces as we operate in remote and undeveloped regions of the world. We’ve done so because we believe we need to in order to remain a step ahead.”
“Taking the Lid Off” was a big success years ago for the implementation of technology in mines. Forrest, a co-author of the industry-famous white paper of the project, mentioned it planted the seed globally for innovation but, still today, there are mines not using this proven technology.
Forrest is currently visiting and conducting demos in underground mines throughout Europe and the Middle East. The opportunities in that region are vast, and if there’s one person who is best-equipped to tackle the unique challenge of that market, it’s Charlie Forrest.
Stay tuned for our next blog post on the unique challenges and opportunities of the Africa region.