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Beating swords into plowshares

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Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Improving mining outcomes with the help of Israeli defense technology

What would the Israeli defense technology sector have to offer international 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.

Technology must be in the centre stage of all mining companies’ plans for the future. 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.

Israeli tech company GeoMine ltd. is one example of how military technology can benefit the commercial mining sector. In 2007, GeoMine developed a unique system for locating undetonated land mines through aerial photographs and remote sensing. GeoMine is today using its technology to successfully image for rare elements up to 50 metres below ground. Rather than developing a custom-made product for the industry, GeoMine successfully adapted its existing product to cater for this specific need. GeoMine is just one of many Israeli defense companies currently working on such solutions, despite the fact that Israel has no significant domestic mining industry.

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 is still largely undeveloped. A smart way for the 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.

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