Saving lives around the world while revolutionizing the mining industry. That’s the primary objective of the technology developed and sold by Montreal’s Newtrax.
Millions around the globe watched the striking images of the dramatic 2010 Chilean mine disaster and subsequent rescue that saw 33 mine workers trapped 750 metres underground in a 121-year-old mine for 69 days.
Newtrax solutions that monitor ground stability can help not only prevent this type of disaster, but if an accident occurs the company’s technology supports rescue operations by pinpointing the exact location of mine workers and equipment.
Newtrax’s flagship product, MineHop, is a battery powered wireless network.
“It’s a state-of-the-art system that is easy to incorporate into pre-existing operations and is extremely accurate and reliable,” says Alexandre Cervinka, Newtrax founder and CEO. “Overall, this system allows tracking in real-time and telemetry. These services greatly aid in improving a mining operation’s safety and efficiency, due to the fact that personnel and machine whereabouts are known at all times.”
More than 12,000 Newtrax devices are currently installed with 60,000,000 hours of operation at over 50 mine sites globally. The company’s products help mining companies focus on achieving safe peak performance.
Since it opened its doors, Newtrax has been focused on global business.
“Exporting was part of our business from the start,” explains Cervinka. “Our client base is located all over the word, so we had no choice but to focus on international business.”
Canada’s mining industry contributed $57 billion to our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 and accounted for 20 per cent of Canadian exports. Canada has the world’s third largest mining supply chain with more than 3,700 suppliers in engineering, geotechnical, environmental and other services to mining operations.
For the tech company, going global is akin to the goal of athletes competing at the Olympic Games.
“You must strive to be the best in the world, because being number two is no fun,” adds Cervinka. “The only viable business strategy for a small, high-tech B2B company is to pick a niche market and have a credible business plan to dominate this niche market globally.”
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Newtrax has done just that through its introduction of disruptive technologies – systems that displace an established technology to shake up an industry, or create a completely new industry.
“There are other Canadian industries that are helping mining, directly or indirectly, become more efficient and more competitive,” says Tomas Cabanillas, EDC mining sector expert. “A very good example is the ICT industry and the concept of the Internet of Things (the industrial internet).
“It’s about thinking how the IT and mining worlds communicate with each other,” Cabilnillas adds. “The concept of industry sector convergence is a boost for understanding the Canadian value proposition (globally).”
That concept meshes perfectly with Newtrax’s value proposition. In fact, the company’s founders were involved in various Internet of Things (IoT) ventures over the past 15 years and decided to focus on the underground hard-rock mining vertical in 2009.
“Newtrax believes that a mining company’s ability to leverage technology to better understand its operation will drive process change and, in turn, create efficiencies which will decrease (mine) costs and increase profits,” adds Cervinka.
With satellite offices in Western Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia and South Africa Newtrax has deployed systems on all continents. Although its largest market remains North America, Newtrax expects Latin America and Australia to generate similar levels of revenue next year.
“Our customers are the largest producers of precious and base metals in the world and they rely on the Newtrax system to detect hazards, send evacuation signals to all workers underground, accelerate rescue operations and increase productivity during normal operations with unprecedented levels of real-time data,” explains Cervinka.
In 2014, after several years of triple-digit profitable growth, a multi-billion-dollar Australian private equity fund invested in the company to accelerate Newtrax global expansion.
With this newfound expansion the company met newfound levels of competition, which it met by maintaining its sharp focus on being best in class.
“Our customers shop for solutions globally. In this context, we have to be the best in the world at what we do if we want to compete with the big players,” says Cervinka. “Becoming the best in the world at what we do meant we had to avoid spreading ourselves too thin by chasing opportunities in adjacent markets like underground coal or open pit, and focus 100 per cent of our resources on solving problems specific to underground hard rock mines.”
For Newtrax, the strategy paid off.
“The virtue of focus is that, over time, the purpose-built solutions we developed for the target industry, fit like a glove. And customers notice,” explains Cervinka. “There are roughly 800 underground hard rock mine sites in the world and we are currently in more than 55 and on a trajectory to dominate our niche.”
And dominating its niche relies on good people, persistence and relentless research and development.
“We are aggressively investing in new product development, professional services capabilities and support structures in response to customer requests,” says Cervinka.