Taking A Microscopic Look At The Mining Sector
(Kitco News) - Mining companies struggling to attract investor capital need to start thinking outside the box and pay more attention to their environmental footprint, according to one tech mining executive.
Kurtis Vanwallegham, CEO of Bio-Mine at #DisruptMining 2017
In an interview with Kitco News, Kurtis Vanwallegham, CEO of Bio-Mine, said that mining companies are starting to really focus on the importance of their social corporate responsibilities and environmental issues are at the forefront.
“If you can keep the people in the area happy and the environmental impact low; where communities are supporting you and your business model is more accepted in society, that will be reflected in your share price,” he said.
Vanwallegham added he has seen this sentiment continue to grow in the mining space as he works with more and more researchers to develop green technology. 2017 was a big year for Bio-Mine after it competed in the #DisruptMining event at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention.
Last year it pitched the idea of using bio-intelligent, augmenting consortium of organisms to recover metals and remediate mines, an evolution from all microbes currently being used today. The idea Vanwallegham said is to use zero-toxic technologies and innovation to replace all harmful chemicals currently found on a typical mine site
Since the PDAC event, Bio-Mine has had to move twice as its business saw rapid expansion. Vanwallegham added that they still have a waiting list of companies that are interested in our partner program.
“This past year has been unbelievable. We just didn’t have the capacity to handle all the project requests but that is going to change in 2018, as we move into our new state of the art facility,” he said.
Looking at Mining at a Microscopic Level
What makes Bio-Mine a unique tech mining company is the way it is approaching the problem of developing a sustainable mine. Vanwallegham explained that they are working with some of the world’s top medical researchers to develop new technologies. He added that the medical field has some of the best researchers in areas that can be transferred to the mining sector.
“We are working with the elite of the elite when it comes to nanotechnology, biotechnology, molecular science and organic chemistry,” he said. “We are not coming at mining from an engineering viewpoint but from a molecular viewpoint.”
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel that there are non-toxic substitutions and options for mining companies to utilize innovation to reduce their environmental footprint,” he added.
As an example, Vanwallegham said that Bio-Mine is working with a leading global expert in cyanide, which is a deadly toxin that is used to extract gold and silver.
“The goal is to eliminate cyanide completely, so we try and bring in the best in the world as mentors and consultants to our team” he said.
Vanwallegham said one of the critical roles he sees for Bio-Mine is as a “solutions incubator,” as the company works with its researchers to develop viable commercial non-toxic technologies. He added through their incubation process they can evaluate what technology will realistically work within a typical mining project.
“Unfortunately 90% of the research out there are not viable for a mine for one reason or another, so how does a mining company find the right technology. Not easily.
While partnering with a variety of mining companies, Vanwallegham said that its business model is based on the medical sector. He explained that they have a variety of projects at different stages of development. He added that they are continually researching new ideas, with the best ideas moving forward through the incubation phases toward commercialization.
“We have modeled our business after medical research because they are the best examples of rapid innovation,” he said. “Similar to their stages, we have some projects that can be adopted now, we have some projects that are about a year away and we have some projects that have just been added to the workbench.”
Bio-Mine, Vanwallegham said, was able to expand its business because of the exposure from the 2017 #DisruptMining event, which allowed him to showcase his innovative ideas to a room full of mining executives.
Goldcorp is planning its second annual #DisruptMining event and is accepting applications for companies to present their ideas in front of a panel of mining and tech executives. Tuesday is the final day for companies to submit their proposals.