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Beating swords into plowshares

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Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Improving mining outcomes with the help of Israeli defense technology

What does the Israeli defense technology sector have to offer Australian mining companies? Surprisingly, there is significant overlap in the industries; operating in remote locations, the need for self-sufficiency, challenging environments and terrain, safety issues and more create an unlikely, but successful, synergy.

“If you look at a modern Defense control room and a modern mine site operations room you can see the extensive similarities between the two. Both terrains are extremely dangerous environments with explosives and large dangerous vehicles all around. The environments are usually in rural locations that are isolated which require the site to be self-sustaining. With the rural locations, dust and sand are part of the territory, but reliability of technology is of the utmost importance and in some situations can be lifesaving,” said Israel Trade Commissioner to Australia, Ehud Gonen.

Everyone in the mining industry recognizes that technology must be in the centre stage of all future plans. Using technology smartly enables mining companies to solve many of their outstanding challenges, whether they are manpower, environmental, OH&S, geological or cost efficiency issues.

Israeli technology has already been successfully adapted in mines around the world primarily helping mining companies with their water and wastewater treatment issues. Major potential exists to expand their involvement by adapting defense technology to a range of mining environments. Utilising Israeli expertise in robotics and remote control, accurate positioning, training and the use of sophisticated sensors, are just some of the possible synergies, helping minimise environmental damage and maximise personnel safety.

Aeroscout is one example of a company that has already successfully transitioned their products from defense to mining. In Australia, Aeroscout has rolled out its Wi-Fi based active RFID system, which is used to track personnel, improve safety and raise productivity. The tags are seamlessly integrated into the battery packs of cap lamps worn by the miners.

SimiGon and Simlat are two examples of Israeli companies poised to add value to the mining sector. Their highly sophisticated simulation-based training offers safe and efficient customised training for operating equipment. Their systems, traditionally used by air forces and commercial airlines, can be adapted to mining simulation solutions. These and other defense technology companies are looking to adapt their ideas to a broader audience beyond their original purpose.

Israel’s geopolitical reality has resulted in billions of dollars invested in R&D towards defense applications. In recent years, many of these products have been successfully spun off for commercial applications and are literally contributing towards “beating swords into plowshares.” Given Imaging’s pill-sized camera used for diagnosing Gastro-Intestinal diseases, is probably one of the most well known examples. The technology for this tiny camera was developed for cameras to be placed at the front of guided missiles.   Other commercial applications of Israeli defense technology include Gulfstream private jets, 3D medical imaging and even phone voicemail.

Adapting Israel’s innovative technological expertise to help improve mining conditions and outcomes in Australia is still largely undeveloped. A smart way for the Australian mining sector to stay ahead of the game would be working with Israeli technology companies to help solve many of the outstanding challenges facing the sector.

The knowledge and expertise of Australian-based HyVista Corporation, which conducts aerial hyperspectral surveys, was at the core of Israeli company GeoMine’s efforts to develop a system for locating undetonated land mines through aerial photographs and remote sensing. GeoMine is able to detect nitrogen that has leaked into the soil from the land mines. GeoMine has used this technology in Israel, Thailand, Azerbaijan, and Angola to inspect 100,000 kilometres a day of suspected minefields, significantly reducing the hours required to detect the mines by individuals as well as reducing the danger.

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