"There is a huge economic benefit for companies to be able to get that incremental production, because they already have all the infrastructure in place, including people, permits and mills."
How would you define surgical mining?
Surgical mining is the use of conventional drilling equipment to be able to precisely extract ore from the ground while minimizing waste. Novamera developed Surgical Mining by Drilling (SMD), a 3-phase process, as well as the enabling technologies to facilitate the method. In the first phase, Novamera assists the mining company by deploying, via wireline, its near borehole imaging tool (“NBIT”) on a standard NQ size core rig down the dip of the vein to map the vein deposit in high resolution (up to 3 m in radius around the borehole), and calculate the optimal drilling trajectory using our proprietary algorithms. Our data driven solution allows you to see a much clearer picture of the ore body unlike traditionally, where it would be cost prohibitive to drill conventional cross-cutting core holes at an equivalent spacing to achieve similar resolution. The second phase is the extraction stage, where a conventional large-diameter (approx. 2 m diameter cutting heads) drill armed with our course-correction device and positioning control system follows the trajectory path calculated by our imaging tool and extracts the ore using reverse circulation airlift assist. In the final phase, once the hole is open and the ore has been processed, the mining company will combine the tailings with cement to backfill the hole.
How can Novamera’s technology help improve the economics of certain deposits?
Mining companies typically don’t mine every tonne of ore out of their deposits because it is not economic to do so with the conventional mining method. If they have steeply dipping narrow vein deposits that are too complex or uneconomic to mine using conventional mining techniques, they can use our technology in a manner complementary to their existing operations to be able to extract more of their mineral resources. It essentially takes mineral resources and converts them to reserves. There is a huge economic benefit for companies to be able to get that incremental production, because they already have all the infrastructure in place, including people, permits and mills. Therefore, they can add to their bottom line far more efficiently and profitably using Novamera’s technology.
Can you speak to the ease with which this technology can be integrated into an operation?
Because companies are not mining these resources using conventional methods, by definition, they are peripheral to the main operation of a project. Consequently, we are not disrupting the core operation, which is key when trying to introduce new technologies or innovative processes. We are off to the side, so companies can use this technology to unlock incremental production without risking the primary revenue stream.
What are some of the benefits of SMD?
SMD is a low capex method with relatively little development costs since you don’t have a need for ramps, shafts, or portals, for instance. It enables a mining company to access ore quickly and has a lot of operational flexibility and scalability. Regarding ESG, companies create a smaller footprint because they minimize waste, generate less GHG emissions, and don’t do any blasting. Finally, from a safety perspective, miners are out of harm’s way because they sit on a drill above the surface, and do not have to go underground.
How would you describe Novamera’s revenue model?
It’s a Hardware as a Service model where we are selling to the mining company the enabling technologies that make surgical mining with conventional drills possible. We generate recurring revenue through our imaging service and the software that drives the imaging and smart drilling. Our second revenue stream comes from one-time sales of our course correction device and positioning control system, which are the key hardware components that facilitate the ‘smart’ drilling of the large diameter pile-top drill rig.
At what stage is Novamera in its development, and what kind of traction has it seen in the industry?
We are past the proof-of-concept stage and are now doing field demonstrations for customers. Currently, we are performing a demonstration in Canada and in Brazil where we plan to do a trial of our imaging tool followed by a smart drilling pilot. Our field experience will allow us to build case studies and proof points to better articulate the tremendous opportunity of surgical mining.