With a focus on digitalisation and sustainability, Normet are global experts in mining equipment and services.

Ed Santamaria joined Normet as CEO last year having previously worked for Sandvik mining as president of Parts & services, president of rock tools, and VP of underground mining in Australia. Mining Technology spoke with Santamaria about the future of mining and what sets Normet apart from the competition.

What are some of the most important advancements that you’ve seen in the mining industry so far?

ES: Recently there have been tremendous advancements in the safety of people in and around mines. There has been a greater acceptance of the usage of new technologies that enhance safety, as well as productivity and efficiency, particularly in the field of automation and digitalisation.

More digital technologies enable us to not only enhance the performance of equipment in any given application but also to help the operator. Applications such as traffic management, personnel tracking, collision avoidance, knowing that people are safe, and optimising the movement of people on and around equipment in a congested mine area, as well as helping the operator to get the most out of a piece of equipment. Technology helps the operator to undertake an application, whether that’s spraying concentre or charging etc.

How can the mining industry become more sustainable?

ES: Adopt more electric and battery power train technology to reduce diesel emissions underground, although you still have to generate power to use electric vehicles or charge battery-operated vehicles, we are reducing the exposure of people to harmful emissions.

“There has been a greater acceptance of the usage of new technologies that enhance safety, as well as productivity and efficiency.”

Some of the things that Normet is looking at, and I looked at with previous companies, is reducing the overall time and energy used to perform a particular process.

With sprayed concrete, we can optimise the rebound and use of chemicals. Rebound means the amount of concrete wasted as it does not attach to the sprayed area. Reduced rebound means faster processes and less concrete sprayed, which is a saving on both money and reducing CO2 emissions as less concrete is needed. Reducing the use of chemicals provides similar financial benefits and reduces the need for chemicals.

We can do, and are doing, a lot more about the amount of water that we have to consume across the mining process. How can we use new technologies to significantly reduce the amount of water required in a mine process? There are a lot of benefits that we can bring to the industry in terms of circulatory or how we can recycle different types of raw materials and reuse them, rather than discard them.

What challenges do you see in store for the mining industry?

ES: I see a number of challenges as we advance to find and develop projects in underdeveloped or remote countries, that’s a challenge in itself. I think meeting that balance between putting the mining industries heavy use of capital investment to develop one mine (along with long time to recover investment) balanced with the social needs of a country where we operate or participate.

If you look at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, there has been a lot of talk from CEOs of mining companies about corporate social responsibility and awareness to engage the government and communities to find the balance of common ground that is needed to embark on a project. If you take examples recently in Tanzania, Zambia and Indonesia, where there have been quite high-profile legal battles between governments and mining companies about mining licenses and what it takes to comply to get licenses renewed or back issued.

“There has been a lot of talk from CEOs of mining companies about corporate social responsibility and awareness to engage the government and communities.”

Beyond any challenges, I do see a continued bright future for mining, one that embraces new technologies and one that provides opportunities across many more continents for a more diverse workforce.

What are Normet’s key offerings that meet the needs of these new trends?

ES: First of all, to have a full portfolio of battery-operated vehicles is something that is an area of focus for us. I would like us to be the first major OEM in the industry to have a complete portfolio of battery technology. But we’re also looking at the types of materials that we use in our products, and again looking at a more responsible usage of raw materials. We’re also investing in being able to market a number of new digital technologies that will enhance the safety of people, using technologies such as virtual reality to connect them from remote sites, or simulations for a training environment or assist in diagnostics of technical problems.

We can achieve a lot more with technology, with fewer people physically on the ground and travelling to and from those remote environments. We are also doing a lot more with people, not only around safety, but also awareness from a social point of view. I’ve been very impressed with my first few months with Normet at some of the community projects that I see people investing both company time and personal time in to make a difference in some of the communities that we operate.

What is Normet looking to focus on in the future?

ES: We’ve always got to ensure that we have a competitive portfolio that meets all the needs of our customers. We’re investing a lot of time and money in automated charging and automated spraying of concrete. The challenge is coming up with reliable, affordable solutions.

Normet is a company with a proud history and legacy and a strong reputation. I’m certainly focussed on lifting the profile of Normet so more people see and hear about Normet, reaching further geographically across the industry. We should be marketing ourselves and really educating people more about what sort of company we are and some of the exciting things that we’re doing.