Alex Pienaar, Regional Marketing and Sales Manager highlights Reutech Mining’s safety and productivity record and its goals to expand market share.
Can you tell us a bit more about Reutech’s origin and your evolution in the mining industry?
Alex Pienaar (AP): Reutech Radar Systems started out as a defense contractor, successfully designing and developing ground-based radar systems for the defense market. In 2004 we were approached by Anglo Coal South Africa to help them detect and accurately track slope stability issues at their collieries using our cutting edge radar technology. Extensive collaboration between both companies led to the introduction of the Movement and Surveying Radar (MSR) to the mining industry in 2006. We have since then experienced unprecedented global growth and what used to be a business unit focused on mining is now a stand-alone division within the company.
What is Reutech’s current presence in Canada and what are your goals for this jurisdiction?
AP: We have worked closely with Cameco on their Key Lake project where we deployed two of our MSR systems to monitor the stability of a slope wall during construction. It was an interesting project with a very unique set of challenges. Deploying any type of equipment in the northern latitudes with the guarantee of being 95% operationally available on a 24/7 basis, all year round, provided testing conditions with unchartered territory for our product. These two systems were the first MSR’s able to operate at -50°C without the need for external heated buildings/enclosures or additional heating blankets. The technology has recently been tested to further extremes at a Centerra Gold mine in Eastern Europe where MSR is constantly monitoring a rapidly moving wall of ice. Our goal is to increase the safety and productivity of Canadian open cast mines by offering a solution with unrivalled reliability and accuracy.
You have also developed technologies for the harsh conditions in southern Africa. How challenging and different was that from what you have done here?
AP: Our promise to our clients across the board is increased safety and productivity. To keep that promise on a daily basis requires a high level of operational availability. Our systems have withstood the harshest environmental and operational conditions within the African mining industry. This ranged from extreme heat to dust storms and torrential rains. With that being said, an African winter and a Canadian winter is not quite the same thing. It is relatively easy to develop a system that is operational to -20°C; most commercially available electrical and mechanical components are specified to operate at those temperatures. However, it becomes exponentially more challenging to develop a system able to operate at -50°C without having to construct and use heated enclosures.
How much more expensive would your products be that you developed for Canada’s North as opposed to standard systems?
AP: There is a minimal price difference, but the -50°C MSR will certainly not break the bank. We remove a lot of the components that are unnecessary in the extremely cold conditions. There are not any major modifications necessary so the form-fit factor remains the same. This helps to keep the costs in check.
How difficult do you find introducing these new technologies to the mining industry?
AP: In the current tough economic times where resource prices are under pressure, mines are looking for multi-dimensional solutions. The advantages in increased safety and productivity of the MSR technology are a definite benefit to any mine. Even in tough economic times, mines refuse to compromise on safety, but when the product that is introduced to help solve safety problems also significantly increases productivity, objections are usually overcome.
Do you have a case study where the MSR has increased productivity and safety?
AP: A slope failure at a large open pit copper mine in South America resulted in a 20,000-metric ton collapse directly on to a haul road. The failure developed over a period of 21 hours and was detected six hours in advance by an MSR system operating at a range of 800 meters. The warning not only provided sufficient time for the evacuation of personnel and equipment from the area but also provided the planning department with enough time to arrange alternative access to the pit. There were no resultant injuries, damage to equipment or extended production loss due pit access.
What do you envision for Canada’s North and territories like Greenland and Scandinavia?
AP: It is definitely important territories that Reutech Mining would like to focus on going forward. Our technology is mature enough to be able to operate in those environments. We have proven ourselves globally and it is just a question of getting to the people and educating the market.
How are technologies received and perceived from South Africa?
AP: South Africa has a very good reputation in the mining industry. South Africa currently is the fourth biggest supplier of mining equipment to the Canadian market. This statistic speaks volumes about how South African technology is received and perceived. We often meet sceptics when it comes to the technological abilities of the African continent. Not only has Reutech Mining more than proved itself in highly challenging environments as well as markets, but it is quite impressive to see how many industries in the modern world make use of South African designed and manufactured technology. The US and Norwegian defense forces are prime examples.
What would be your key objectives over the next three to five years in Canada?
AP: The first key objective will be to work closely with regional stakeholders in order to determine their unique technical and functional requirements, with the goal of further aligning or solution with their specific needs. The second objective will be to gain substantial market share by using our existing platform as a springboard.
Do you have a final message for our international readership and the local players?
AP: Reutech Mining, in collaboration with the mining industry, has worked hard to design and develop the world’s best slope stability radar in the form of the MSR product range. We offer systems that can be installed in fixed installations, on the back of utility vehicles or on trailers. We continually strive to improve our offering by means of industry consultation and input. We remain committed to improving the safety and productivity of open cast mines around the world through the accuracy and reliability of the MSR system.