Javier Prados
Director General
Normet México
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View from the Top

Compact Electrical Machines Are the Future

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 12:07

Q: Do you see a tendency in the industry to shift from open pit mining to underground mining?
A: I would not necessarily characterize it as a tendency, but you do see underground mining growing around the world. What happens often is once the qualities or quantities of mined minerals at open pit mines decrease, miners will attempt to go underground. They will study veins and estimate the tonnage available underground. There are various cases of open mines in Mexico that ended as underground mines. Many were older mines and as the operator continued exploring, new minerals were found. I see it as a continuation of business. The advantage is that the infrastructure for mining is already in place.
Q: What are the principal challenges related to underground mining?
A: One of the principal elements is the sustainability of galleries. They have to guarantee safety. This is why concrete metal mesh and bolts are applied to strengthen the walls. These all incur significant costs. Additionally, underground environments can have high temperatures, high humidity and the risk of water entering. Removing water is another cost and requires specialized equipment. Lastly, there is the risk that you may not find the amount of minerals to justify the operational costs of your equipment and personnel.
Q: Part of your mission is to increase digitalization in the mining sector. How do you achieve this?
A: Our overall goal is to increase the informatization and digitalization of operations. For example, some of our machines are equipped with screens that provide a clear overview of performance. This information can also be downloaded for monitoring purposes using a simple USB stick. This data can be very important in helping determine whether the machine is functioning well and whether the operator is using it correctly. Machines also have systems that provide alerts when maintenance is needed. All this information is vital in keeping an operation running and cost-effective. We also offer antenna’s that can be placed in the galleries to measure mine conditions.  
In terms of technological developments, Normet recently launched a new line of machinery that runs on lithium batteries. These machines produce zero emissions inside the tunnels and save on fuel costs. They are designed to be compact, allowing greater mobility, but they have the same capabilities as larger machines. We believe many companies are going to incorporate these machines in their lineups.
Q: What is an example of a recent project you have been involved in?
A: We are in a project with Sunshine Silver Mining from the US. The company was familiar with our equipment through a collaboration in the US. It invested MX$131.5 million (US$6.6 million) in an important 16-machine fleet and they have an extensive service contract with us. The service includes having our technicians on site 24/7 to oversee the logistics related to the machines and to train Sunshine Silver’s personnel. We are providing additives for the concrete in the tunnels and we also performed tests with resin and injection pumps to provide protection against water. The special thing about this project is that it combines our three lines of business: our equipment, the additives for cement, and all-round service support.
Q: What is Normet’s strategy for growth in the coming year?
A: The machinery we offer is not built in Mexico, but in Finland, China, India and Chile. For this reason, I view us here in Mexico as a service company. We intend to improve our level of service, training more personnel both in the area of machines as well as additives. For the company as a whole, the development of new technologies and products will remain a priority. In that regard, our goal is to address the new challenges that our clients face. In the area of equipment, we will focus on making them more compact and electric. Regarding tunnel support, we will develop new concrete additives, as well as chemical products to meet specific challenges such as water risks.