When installed on mining equipment, the company’s SymBot collects data in real time to monitor use in association with maintenance, productivity, safety, emissions and more. El Teniente Mine, an underground operation located on the southwestern coast of Chile, produces 137,000 tonnes of ore per day, which requires lots of equipment and translates to more potential business for Symboticware.
“Strategically, we’re looking at the areas where it makes sense,” said Kirk Petroski, Symboticware’s president and CEO. “South America is a really big opportunity for us with the growth of mining activity, particularly in the underground mines.”
After attending a trade show in Chile last April as part of the Ontario-sponsored Mining Supply and Services Export Assistance Program, the company signed a reseller agreement with the same Chilean company that represents the products of Mining Technology International.
Symboticware followed that up in November as one of eight companies selected to attend a trade show to Chile and Brazil through Wavefront, a non-profit organization that connects Canadian wireless companies with resources, partners and opportunities.
“Through Wavefront, as well as Export Development Canada, we were able to get some very key, strategic meetings with mining companies in both Chile and Brazil,” Petroski said. “With Chile, we attended these meetings with our partner down there and Codelco was quite interested in what we had to offer.”
During the four-month pilot project, SymBots will be installed on equipment at El Teniente, data will be collected and Symboticware will analyze the data to show how the companies can make improvements and embark on a predictive maintenance program, as opposed to the current scheduled maintenance program it follows.
When the project concludes this spring, the two companies will look at solidifying a larger scale project using the technology.
“Right now it’s definitely a great opportunity to get into a new market for us, to understand how to work with that market and this particular company, learn from that experience and then expand from there,” with Petroski said.
There is also still potential to expand into Brazil, using Chile as a launch pad. Petroski said the company wants to mimic the process it used with Chile, first finding a local representative to promote the product to identify potential partners in Brazil. He anticipates it will be a longer process, but still expects to secure a reseller in 2013.
Integral to the company’s progress into South America was the collaboration with Vale and Xstrata, as well as the export assistance program, which was invaluable to a young startup like Symboticware that doesn’t have a lot of capital to invest into international sales, Petroski said.
“This was a good way to take a technology that was developed here in Sudbury, with the expertise here, and start bringing that to other international markets,” he said.
Symboticware had similar success after meeting with Cliffs Natural Resources at MINExpo in Las Vegas last September. The American company—the same one that will bring its ferrochrome-processing plant to Sudbury to facilitate its Black Thor Ring of Fire project—is seeking to use the SymBot technology in its coal mines. Symboticware is currently in the process of defining a pilot project with Cliffs, in addition to following up on other leads gleaned from the trade show.
Petroski believes, as mining intensity increases over the next 30 years, more mines will be going underground where the return is less fruitful than in open-pit operations. For this reason, companies need to become adroit at making faster, more efficient decisions to increase their return on investment.
“There will definitely be some good opportunities in the future, so I’m really looking forward to continuing in South America and getting our product out there,” he said.