MIGUEL ANGEL PEÑA,
VP OF INNOVATION AND START UPS,
"This year, we will be testing our robotics developments in various underground and open pit mines."
What have been Enaex’s most recent developments?
Enaex has been working very hard on flight tests with our robotics. 2020 was a challenging year due to the pandemic, and mines were operating cautiously, so we could not undertake any testing in clients’ mines and some of our plans were deferred to 2021. However, in the case of Enaex Bright®, we managed to complete some testing in some mines to achieve the completion of some of its libraries/modules.
This year, we will be testing our robotics developments in various underground and open pit mines. We are also pushing hard to research new blasting agents for the mining market. Enaex also expanded its presence to Australia and South Africa, where we are targeting both the underground and open pit markets. We will continue with R&D activities in Chile and will then export these technologies.
Can you elaborate on the company’s strategic partnerships regarding robotics?
As a subsidiary of the Sigdo Koppers Group, Enaex has a mixture of partnerships. Through acquisitions and joint ventures, our strategy is to continue strengthening our international presence in the most important mining regions of the world. Our partners include SRI International, ASI Robots, Corfo, AMTC (Advance Mining Technology Center), GHH, Thecne and SK Godelius. We have approximately seven years of experience in the robotics field, and thus we have great internal know-how. We are continuing to partner with start-ups (Dronia, etc.), academic institutions (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santa María Technical University, etc.), and large companies to explore new areas which will complement our core business capabilities. With regards to start-ups, we are looking at companies that can assist us in the development of IoT, AI and augmented reality. From a research perspective, partnerships with academic intuitions have been extremely helpful.
What are Enaex’s innovations to enhance safety and productivity?
Safety and an exponential increase in productivity are vital for Enaex, and we have an ongoing development process focused on the delivery of new products and services that address specific problems and innovatively contribute to production process efficiency. We have developed the Safelock system, which locks the detonator in the booster, thus avoiding decoupling and making the priming operation more secure. We have also demonstrated the increased safety and productivity aspects of electronic detonation. Our electronic wireless system communicates with a digital blasting system located a few kilometres from the blasting zone and is controlled by a wireless communication protocol specifically developed and optimized to ensure safe, reliable, and synchronized operation of hundreds of detonating elements in open pit mines. In partnership with SRI, we have also launched Robominer®, which has technology designed to improve safety for miners while also expanding access to minerals in complex and harsh environments. Robominer® in open pit mines and our UG-itruck® for underground mines will both remove people from risky zones. Robominer® works with our Mine-iTruck®, a mobile explosive manufacturing truck in field operations but without people on site. Regarding underground applications, I have to mention our new initiation system solution for tunneling development which will generate an increase in productivity.
How important is cybersecurity when moving towards more autonomous and digitized operations?
Cybersecurity is paramount. Enaex is in conversation with one of the leading communication network providers in the world to understand how we can assist mining companies. We are implementing a very robust plug and play system in mines that offers operational efficiencies but is also high security.
Where does Enaex see the highest potential for growth?
Our robotics solutions can significantly increase productivity, and we want to continue with R&D to keep innovating and provide better solutions to the market. There is also tremendous growth opportunity with regards to sustainability as we want to become a leader in offering sustainable products to the industry. We are focused on energy savings and the reduction of emissions, and we constantly work to improve all activities related to sustainability. The electromobility for our equipment is also an area of growth that currently has our attention.
Do you have a final message to our international readership?
Doing pilot studies and trails within mines can benefit the entire industry. The openness of mining companies in testing new technologies or products helps in bringing those innovative products/solutions quicker to the market, benefitting both parties. Our clients are our priority. We want to help them to pick the benefits we bring with our new products and solutions as soon as possible.