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Photonics-enabled mining startup earns $18M venture backing

23 Mar 2022

Australian company Plotlogic harnesses lidar and hyperspectral imaging to optimize metal ore extraction.

Plotlogic, a startup company in Brisbane, Australia, says it has closed an $18 million round of series A venture funding that will help further commercialize its photonics-based ore characterization techniques.

Founded by CEO Andrew Job in 2018, the firm’s “OreSense” technology uses a combination of lidar and hyperspectral imaging alongside machine learning to provide automated analysis of ores - helping to improve extraction efficiency and reduce waste.

Blue-chip customers
With customers already said to include global mining giants BHP, Glencore, and Anglo American, Plotlogic has now attracted backing from Innovation Endeavors - the Silicon Valley venture fund set up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt whose portfolio companies include Uber and Planet Labs, among many others.

“The mining sector is hungry for solutions that improve safety, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and improve profitability. And that's exactly what Plotlogic delivers with our innovative technology,” stated Plotlogic CEO Job.

Sam Smith-Eppsteiner, a partner at Innovation Endeavors, said that the company was “ready to revolutionize” the mining industry with its photonics technology, adding:

“By bringing a new data modality to bear, Plotlogic generates precise, real-time, and predictive ore body knowledge. Early customer relationships underscore the value of such improved understanding: optimized operations, reduced carbon emissions and waste.”

If widely implemented, it is hoped that the Plotlogic approach will increase access to minerals from which nickel, copper and manganese are extracted - metals regarded as critical for the transition to cleaner energy, for applications like electric vehicle batteries.

Case study
According to a case study produced by Plotlogic, one customer in Western Australia used the technology to improve its extraction of high-grade iron ore that commands higher prices - and therefore makes the company's mine economically viable.

“The challenge for mining operators is to identify [the] type and grade of ore, and waste materials on the mine wall to improve the processing of ore and scheduling of the removal of ore and waste,” explains the startup firm in its study.

It adds that the ‘OreSense’ system is capable of acquiring, processing, and classifying hyperspectral data in the field in real time, mapped to terrain and geo-referenced for integration with mine maps, and enabling precise grade control.

“In addition to this the other significant advantage is that it makes mining safer and healthier, as it reduces exposure of personnel to the active mine areas and can detect the presence of hazardous fibrous materials,” claims the firm.

After a four-week deployment to identify and quantify levels of hematite, goethite, and limonite ores, as well as various clays that represent waste materials,the system was able to highlight the boundaries between different grades of ore and clay, and to map the absolute abundance of aluminum oxide on the mine wall.

Plotlogic says that it plans to use the proceeds of the venture capital round to invest in additional research and development, and to bolster commercialization efforts.

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