"With the advent of Big Data, we are looking at how to utilize massive sets of information and our Micromine solution is well-known for its capabilities in this area."
Can you provide a brief overview of Micromine's service offering for the mining industry and highlight its presence in Africa?
We supply software solutions to the mining industry and have been doing so for more than 30 years. We have three main products: Geobank, Micromine, and Pitram. Geobank is a geological database management solution; Micromine is an exploration and 3D mine design software solution; and Pitram is a fleet management and mine control solution. With our offices all around the world, we are representing South Africa at the Cape Town Mining Indaba. The local South African office is responsible for servicing the entire continent.
Governments are increasingly focused on providing better geological data in their respective countries to promote exploration. How has this reflected in demand for Micromine's services?
Micromine is the only mining software company that covers the entire mining value chain, so all the way from exploration through to mining we can provide a solution. We have seen a lot of exploration activity in Central and Western Africa, and we are receiving a lot more queries from government agencies. For example, we identified Zambia recently as one of the up-and-coming countries and we have launched some initiatives in partnership with the government, as well as the country’s universities. We supply the universities with our software and will train the educators on the uses of the software. In turn, they can train the next generation of geologists and mining engineers, which will promote the uptake of the software in Zambia.
What sort of logistical challenges does a software company encounter when operating in jurisdictions across the African continent?
Africa is obviously very different to the other regions where we operate such as Australia and the Americas. There are certain countries across the continent that are putting in place measures to curb people taking advantage of their mineral resources. Getting into places like the DRC has always been a challenge, both in terms of the logistics and the visa requirements. Ghana, where they have introduced the Minerals Commission, is another example.
How do Micromine's software solutions assist mines in achieving greater levels of efficiency?
Micromine and Pitram are particularly relevant in addressing these concerns around optimization. Over 80% of our Pitram sites are underground, so we particularly specialize in underground environments with this solution. Optimization, improvement of production, safety — all of these are hot topics where our solutions are useful. In one scenario, we put in place a study before and after implementation that showed an overall 10% improvement. However, it is not just production, but also safety and other aspects of the mining environment that can improve with our solutions.
What sort of investment in R&D does Micromine make to ensure it stays ahead of the technology curve and where do you see the most opportunity to innovate?
The use of our software entails an annual license fee that enables the user to use the software and also provides them with support while also entitling them to the latest releases of the software. That revenue then gets used for R&D. When we look at our product strategy roadmaps and what we want to do in the short, medium and long-term, we look at our clients' needs, the markets, and also at how we can innovate to make mining easier. All three of our products still have a lot of potential. With the advent of Big Data, we are looking at how to utilize massive sets of information and our Micromine solution is well-known for its capabilities in this area. Also, data is useless if it is not validated. That is where Geobank and Pitram are useful.
Looking ahead to 2019, where are your top picks for mining investment in Africa and what is your vision for the role that Micromine will play in this evolving industry?
The exciting buzz in West Africa will not change anytime soon. In the DRC, things are improving, and in Tanzania it is a challenge of legislation. In South Africa, hopefully with the impending political changes things will begin to improve. It is an interesting time for Zimbabwe as well. The country has vast mineral resources and so we are excited to see how things will change there.
At Micromine, our main aim is to make exploration and mining easier, and to constantly provide our clients with a proper return on investment.