There has been a realisation in the mining industry that it’s far behind in terms of technology and innovation. According to Louis Marais, CEO of Somerset West-based company Stone Three Mining Solutions, the mining industry faces a number of challenges that could be alleviated by technology.

“In the Financial Times last January, the CEO of Anglo American, Mark Cutifani, acknowledged this and noted that the budgets for innovation and R&D are 10% of those of the oil and gas industries,” says Marais. “The mining industry also faces many other challenges: dropping ore grades, labour, energy costs and supply, politics and the global economy. So there is a resurgence in the belief that a new focus needs to be placed on innovation and technology.”

Stone Three Mining Solutions optimises mineral processing plants through machine vision based smart sensor technology, consultative data analysis and advanced process control services. It develops and engineers a range of machine vision solutions including froth sensors, particle size analysers, volumetric material analysers and bubble sizers that measure and optimise mineral extraction processes for the mining industry.

“As technology companies we have an important role to play in transforming the mining industry. To make this happen, in a somewhat reluctant industry, the only way is to build long term relationships based on trust. Additionally, you need to empathetically understand the challenges your clients face.”

Stone Three Mining Solutions’ business model is based on optimisation consulting, an incremental set of value offerings that build on one another, starting with a basic needs analysis and ending with implementing advanced control.

“The first differentiator we have is the ability to provide an end-to-end solution. Some technology providers will be able to supply sensor equipment but that’s the end of their scope of work. Others rely on the client putting in the right sensors before they can provide their services.”

“We provide a full range,” says Marais. “From the needs analysis, to the sensors right through to advanced control. Running a mine is a complex business so we take ownership of innovation in our clients’ minds. We start by understanding the client’s needs, we supply the right sensors and then we analyse how plant behaviour is reflected in the data provided by the sensors. We then design a control philosophy for the plant and finally implement it.

“Our goal is to play a key role in the modernisation of the mining industry,” he concludes.