"The early adopters of these technologies could potentially serve as a model for other mining companies and trigger a virtuous cycle."
To what extent did external factors in 2020 impact the demand for technology at mine sites?
Our initial expectation was that Covid-19 would bring about a new interest in biosecurity and health solutions. However, we have found that interest in these topics peaked in 2020 but faded away as work dynamics began to normalize. While we have come up with some solutions related to health and new protocols, and we continue to work on solutions such as cameras to track workers and ultraviolet rays to measure temperature, this demand has not been as important as anticipated. What we have observed is an increase in fatigue management, which has come as a result of longer work shifts during the pandemic.
Sitech’s most demanded services continue to be related to security, our main line of business. We have done a great job positioning ourselves as a company with a well-defined value proposition in this area.
Have high metals prices been an incentive for companies to introduce innovation, or are companies currently more concerned with making up for time lost during lockdown?
Both of these statements are true to some degree. On one hand, some companies will be able to take advantage of high metal prices, start new projects and introduce innovation. On the other hand, other companies will be looking to make up for the lost production during lockdown by using tried and tested mining methods, rather than introducing new innovations.
One area that we have seen pick up is technology that supports remote working, as mining firms are becoming progressively more interested in using tools that allow them to become more efficient without people in the field. The demand for remote control centers is increasing, for example. Covid has been the catalyst for this move, which has encouraged some mining companies to introduce certain technologies. However, many of these technologies existed before Covid, they have just gained more traction during the crisis.
Can you explain the working dynamic between Sitech and foreign technology providers, and give examples of some of the technologies you are introducing to Peruvian mines?
Sitech´s objective is to bring to Peruvian mines the best practices and solutions they need to be more efficient. Our role is extremely dynamic as we must work closely with our customers to understand their needs, investigate if we are able to provide the right solution for them, and contact the best providers. Therefore, we need to have a deep knowledge of technology, of our clients´ needs, and of the industries that we are targeting. One of our key success factors is having the right providers and bringing the best solutions to the market as efficiently as possible.
For about a year and a half, we have been focusing on open-pit projects, working with some excellent providers. For example, Sitech is currently working on a project with the Finnish-Russian company Zyfra, developing an autonomous driller. This will be deployed in one of the big copper mines of southern Peru and will improve the efficiency, productivity and safety of its drilling operations.
Do you think the growing adoption of remote technology and automation could trigger a snowball effect whereby it becomes the norm for mining companies to work with such innovation?
The early adopters of these technologies could potentially serve as a model for other mining companies and trigger a virtuous cycle. As more solutions are deployed, it is likely that more people in the mining sector will become aware about the benefits of technology and how it makes processes more efficient. In the future, companies will have to move towards technology in order to be competitive. However, in the short term, this is still a process that takes time and we will not see wholesale changes overnight. Our role at Sitech is to educate the market on the benefits of technology and the importance of Industry 4.0.
Which technologies do you envisage will drive growth in the mining industry in the coming years?
I believe technological advances in the areas of automation, remote controls and operations, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will become gradually more important in the mining industry in the coming years. Safety has always been fundamental to mining operations, and technologies that provide better security will continue to be in high demand for this reason.