The mining industry is experiencing innovation everywhere. It is arriving fast and in ways unexpected.
Clickmox, known in the industry for its scanning systems, is not your typical mining services company.
“Like many others we have been developing innovative technologies for the mining sector,” Ahmed said. “We have laser scanning products that do 3D scans from either stationary or mobile platforms. We can mount them on wheeled or tracked vehicles or even drones.”
The surveying tool used is LiDAR (a portmanteau of light and radar) and it captures information rapidly to deliver digital 3D representations of spaces like drifts, stopes and tunnels. Weighing little more than a kilogram, the scanner often travels aboard a modified airborne platform, allowing it to travel over rough terrain with ease and speed.
Plus, the Clickmox team is currently building a proprietary six-blade drone.
“Our original intent was to work in automation — the ‘MOX’ (in the name) stands for Monitoring and Control. It is sort of a standard term in the world of engineering,” Ahmed said, adding that over the past eight years his company has stayed true to that vision, while adapting to changing opportunities.
“Clickmox brings new multi-disciplinary technological approaches to improve efficiency and safety of mining operations,” Ahmed said. “Most of our work is outside Canada. We are global; most of our business is in South America, South Africa, China, and yes, mostly mining. Now we also are branching out into the construction industry. We see applicability there also.”
With a Masters and PhD in high energy physics, Ahmed brings significant expertise to being both an academic and entrepreneur.
“I have not taught for the last three years though,” Ahmed said. “The business has grown and we realized we could not just develop one sensor nor one platform. Not all mines are the same.”
For example, the salt mines in Goderich are a unique environment needing a new way of approaching mine scanning. Clickmox built a new high-range sensor to function effectively in that environment.
“We go to the industry and find out what their problems are, and hope to solve them through the collection of data,” Ahmed said.
Sometimes that means a whole new device is necessary. More robust, lighter and more refined sensors are another requirement.
“We are making good progress,” Ahmed said. “Often we modify and adapt specific to the need.”
One of the important things the Clickmox systems delivers is information for audits. Investors know about how much ore has been moved by the empty space measured. More importantly, they are made aware of the remaining value of the mine.
Ahmed’s current team is also preparing for the arrival of 5G networks in underground environments. 5G is the next-generation of mobile networks beyond LTE (or Long Term Evolution) communication. It will be at least 10 to 20 times faster than 4G. This is the essential piece in the next step of delivering precision for safely flying drones and collecting data with little delay, Ahmed said.
The Clickmox system is also capable of improving mine safety as well since its scanning and data capture capabilities can track structural changes to the underground environments.
“Lateral pressure is another thing we can catch,” Ahmed said. “Monitoring changes can identify potential for rock bursts. The drone can collect autonomously and go before humans to minimize dangers. Safety and productivity can both be considered.”
With five core employees, Clickmox also trains students from high schools, Cambrian College, and Laurentian University who are interested in electronics and technology generally.
“Sometimes we collaborate with others, and right now we are waiting on a multi-million, multi-year project.”
This will have a significant impact on what Clickmox does and what it becomes.
Hugh Kruzel is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury.