Newtrax featured in August issue of Mining Monthly
Canadian underground telemetry specialists Newtrax might appear to be newcomers to the Australian market when they move into their offices in Brisbane and Perth later this year, but the company has been able to build a solid foundation here in a short amount of time. By Andrew Snelling
The company has in fact been operating a direct presence in Australia for about a year and a half and has already made the region its second biggest globally.
A key factor in the quick uptake, according to Newtrax vice-president strategic accounts Charlie Forrest, is the ease with which he has been able to demonstrate the company’s wireless telemetry offerings. “the difference with what we do what we can show, is that during an hour-long meeting we can actually go underground and set it up live and get all the data, tracking, and proximity detection working, and show them on surface.
“It’s pretty compelling when you go underground and show mine managers that our simple approach is pretty cost effective [compared] to everything else out there.
“Most of the market and miners that I’ve been working with have been looking for an alternative for a while, so I guess it’s kind of good timing for us.”
Newtrax offers a range of telematics-based solutions which work off low bandwidth radio signals rather than wifi. “Radio frequency for underground and hard rock is pretty much the best technology because it propagates and bounces off the rock, so you get the best reliability and range,” Forrest said.
“It’s pretty much the best out there. Other systems out there are wifi based. They’re like your standard wifi network, and they are pretty unreliable underground in hard rock and pretty heavy on maintenance.” Newtrax has focused on designing its telematics offerings to deliver data from
areas of the mine where there is no cabled infrastructure. This essentially means the system fits into a mine’s existing leaky feeder and fibre backbone infrastructure to fill in gaps in communications and provide information on geotechnical and hydrology monitoring, gas monitoring, fan and pump control, real-time telemetry and equipment cycles.
Forming the core of the company’s offerings is its MineHop system, which consists of battery-operated, wireless mesh nodes, and radio frequency-based motion and proximity sensors. The nodes can be fixed to the mine wall using cable ties, delivering instant, reliable data from typically hard to reach areas such as the mine face, enabling real-time identification of productivity bottlenecks and the sounding of early warnings in the event of a safety, environmental or health hazard. As the face advances, the system can be moved accordingly with ease.
“Mine managers and shift bosses want to know what’s happening at the face or at the stope, and there are never cables there because things get blasted out,” Forrest said.
“Our gear can sit around the corner, out of the line of sight of the blast, to collect all the data.
“We put a box on a drill or the charge up crew, or the trucks, and you can actually detect everything live with no infrastructure.”
Once installed, MineHope supports the company’s range of solutions, including real-time monitoring and tracking of plant and personnel through MineTrax, a mine evacuation signal system called MineEvac, and the MineAlone solutions which monitors
and enables easy communication with lone mine workers.
The company also offers its MineProx solution, which has been spearheading its growing presence in mine safety solutions. Reflecting Newtrax’s contribution to the growing market of proximity warning systems, MineProx operates by sending signals between worker’s cap lamps and receivers on vehicles.
The point of difference for the Newtrax solution is the ability to filter out needless alarms and work out right of way between vehicles through a range of innovations. Armed with these solutions, Forrest has made it his mission to gain as much ground for the company as he can, as quickly as he can.
“We don’t have a long time to do well in the market,” he said.
“Our competitors can’t do what we can do because it’s difference technology, but a new entrant could come in tomorrow with some other type of technology, so we’re ramping up and growing quickly – but we’re also growing profitably.”
Already, Forrest said, the company had managed to beat its main competitors in tenders, rising from an unknown quantity, to clinching deals with the likes of Glencore.
With the company’s Australian headquarters likely to be based in Brisbane by September, and agreements in the works to standardise Newtrax gear across the sites of some unidentified gold miners, Forrest aims to make Australia the company’s largest market in the next 12months.
“It’s quite exciting to go from nothing to quite a big branch in a year and half,” he said.