"The flaw of many technology companies is to hang on to a product too long and fail to innovate. At the moment, we do not have any serious competition but we know it is a matter of time before we do. With that in mind, we decided to be our own competitor and Zephyr AQS™ is part of that ambition.”
What have been the important milestones achieved by Maestro Digital Mine (MDM) in 2019?
The Zephyr AQSTM Air Quality Station, a new product launched at the CIM Convention in Montreal 2019, has been a huge success. The Zephyr AQS™ is a low-cost air quality monitoring station for underground mines that now completes internally with the gold standard – Vigilante AQS™ air quality station. We looked at our existing Vigilante AQS™ market data to find out who are users were and what they were currently buying. With that information, we designed a product to fit a profile that matched 75% of our current buyers. The flaw of many technology companies is to hang on to a product too long and fail to innovate. At the moment, we do not have any serious competition but we know it is a matter of time before we do. With that in mind, we decided to be our own competitor and Zephyr AQS™ is part of that ambition. Initially we thought the product would do well in our Latin American and African markets, but it has done well everywhere including USA and Canada.
We now supply technology solutions to over 130 mines world-wide. An important development in 2019 was entering the Argentinian market through partnerships with Newmont Gold and Yamana Gold. Maestro works with companies that want to revolutionize the way mines operate; our communication networks and visualization equipment play a pivotal role.
Does MDM tailor its products depending on client and mining environment?
Maestro’s products are always adapted to a mine’s specific conditions. In mining, developing technology applications connotes higher unit costs, this means that the technology is tested very rigorously for applicability, durability and simplicity. Additionally, our products address connectivity gaps in operating systems. We make devices more rugged, advanced and easier to install and repair.
Mining operators have been very receptive to our technology. This has to with the way we approach our clients, our purpose as a company is to establish solid long-lasting partnerships. Maestro’s focus has always been on how to keep workers safe underground and our clients know this, which allows for excellent communication and feedback that guides product development. Because we are permanently innovating to cater to the mining operator’s needs, they value our support and are repetitive customers. The products we develop are a direct response to operator needs and we distinguish ourselves in providing ongoing support to clients. That is the key to holding a reputation and allows us to go from mine to mine.
Which factor seems to be top of the agenda of mining companies: energy efficiency, productivity, or safety?
Productivity, definitely. A 10% reduction in energy use does not have the same impact as a 10% increase in production. We understand the operating principles of a mine and how mine managers are being compensated. The primary focus is on tonnage feeding the mill and second equally is health and safety. Every miner must come back home safe to their family, today and every day. Energy is important but it is nowhere near those two parameters. In more remote operations that are off the grid, energy is more important than in others, as the energy cost structure for these operations can be very high due to difficult access conditions. For example, a tier one company operating in Northern Canada that Maestro works with is saving C$5.5 million per year and 12,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent using our technology.
What are some of the mining challenges related to worker safety that guide MDM’s product development?
Making sure miners are not subject to dangerous gas levels is absolutely critical. Roughly 8% of accidents are related to blasting activities. Making sure that the miners arrive safely at the face after the gases are cleared is of critical importance. Mine operators are cognizant of this and prioritize worker safety. Another aspect of safety is worker heat stress, which is a typical issue in deep mines. Working at high temperatures and high levels of humidity is dangerous. Another challenge is to with dust. As mines are moving from using diesel powered engines to electrically powered engines, the new contributing factor will be dust instead of carbon monoxide or nitrous oxides.
What is in store for Maestro Digital Mine in 2020?
This year we are releasing MaestroLink™ Server. Now that we have thousands of Vigilantes on the field and several hundred of Zephyrs, managing them effectively in the field requires on-going calibration and maintenance. All of Maestro’s products are fully digital and have significant information in the form of status bits to determine the health of the sensors and the complete system. To leverage this information, MaestroLink™ was developed to monitor the equipment and allow easy and quick decisions from a centralized location. The software goes as far as indicating what the action response must be. Data is only useful if helps to determine a decision or action, and we are the only company with the capability to provide instruction items around device maintenance. MaestroLink™ fits perfectly into our core purpose of enhancing lives by the pursuit of productivity and safety excellence.