Unearthing mining solutions

A NATIONAL program combining “hackathon” events and a technology accelerator was launched yesterday in Perth.
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Synaptor managing director Justin Strharsky.

Noel Dyson

Called Unearthed, the program of four events around Australia will bring together top software developers, designers and data scientists with mentors from industry.

The events focus on quickly prototyping potential solutions to high-value resource sector problems.

Resource Innovation through Information Technology representative Justin Strharsky, who is also managing director of safety technology provider Synaptor, said the event format lowered the barriers to experimentation and expedited the development of proof-of-concept solutions.

“Essentially we’re crowd-sourcing multiple potential solutions to industry challenges,” he said.

The winning teams from these events may be offered one of the 10 places available in the Unearthed accelerator.

The accelerator is a six-month program that will help form start-up companies and connect them with industry mentors and customers.

Participating companies each receive $A70,000 in seed investment to help them bring innovative products to the resources sector.

Take the first start-up to be accepted into the accelerator – Perth company Newton Labs, which took the gold prize at the Unearthed event held in May.

In that event the organisers turned to Rio Tinto, Gold Fields and BHP Billiton for problems.

Newton Labs solved Rio Tinto’s problem of identifying when extremely large boulders were en route to the crushers.

These boulders can jam up the crushers, causing costly downtime and production hold-ups. It is estimated the problem costs the mining industry more than $100 million in downtime each year.

Newton Labs found a way to identify when large boulders had been dropped into a truck by the vibrations – or thump – they made when they hit the truck’s tray.

Strharsky said Australian mining had experienced a steady decline in production over the past decade.

“Most stakeholders believe part of the solution lies in innovation and the ability of the mining industry to more quickly adopt new technologies,” he said.

Besides Rio Tinto, BHP and Gold Fields, Unearthed also received support this year from the likes of the Australian Department of Industry, Landgate and Amazon Web Services.

Supporters for 2015 include Iluka Resources, Austmine, acquire Technology Solutions and Spacecubed.

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