Our world revolves around critical minerals and we’re running out of places to easily find them. And when we do find these key minerals, we do it through traditional, carbon-intensive mining practices that increase our GHG emissions.
Fortunately, Ideon Technologies -- a Richmond-based sustainable mining company -- is solving both of these challenges with their cosmic-ray muon tomography technology. This low-impact approach to mining increases visibility and accuracy, reduces GHG emissions, and saves significant costs.
Ideon had a whirlwind and hyper-successful 2021 that included new partnerships, awards, and funding rounds. In June, they were announced as a Startup of the Year finalist at the TIAs; In July, they deployed a first-of-its-kind tomographic solution with paying customers; and to end the year, they secured funding from the Digital Technology Supercluster to lead a low-impact mining project, with a notable list of partners that includes Microsoft, Mitacs, and Simon Fraser University.
We sat down with Ideon’s VP of Talent and Customer Experience, Kim Lawrence, to talk about their Supercluster funding, the future of sustainable mining, and what it’s like to hire while you scale.
Tell us a bit more about Ideon.
Kim: Ideon Technologies is a world pioneer in the application of cosmic-ray muon tomography and a spin-off of TRIUMF (Canada’s particle accelerator lab, located at UBC).
Our Discovery Platform™ integrates proprietary detectors, imaging systems, inversion technologies, and artificial intelligence to provide high-resolution x-ray-like imaging up to 1 KM beneath the Earth’s surface. We deliver the disruptive technology required to accelerate the world’s transition to low-impact mining and feed the skyrocketing demand for critical metals and minerals necessary for the global clean energy transition. Our vision is ‘Transforming Subsurface Discovery’.
Kim: Ideon is leading the Earth-X project as part of a consortium that also includes Dias Geophysical, Fireweed Zinc, Simon Fraser University, Mitacs, and Microsoft (with additional industry support from BHP). Together, we will build, test, and deploy a new platform that will help precision-target deposits and create the environmentally responsible mineral supply needed to fuel the clean energy transition.
Through new implementation and integration methods, we’ll help mining companies identify density and magnetic anomalies with greater resolution and clarity up to 1 KM beneath the Earth’s surface -- much like x-rays and MRIs give us visibility inside the human body.
The new platform will feature state-of-the-art hardware and software, novel data inversion and integration techniques, advanced AI algorithms, and geostatistical methods to construct detailed 3D density profiles of subsurface anomalies such as mineral and metal deposits, air voids, caves and other structures.
This increased visibility and locational accuracy will help reduce ‘hit-and-miss’ drilling and the associated environmental impacts. This Canadian innovation can positively impact the underlying economics of a very traditional industry, paving the way for low-impact mining or, for some minerals, being able to mine without a mine.
How is your company improving sustainability in the mining industry?
Kim: Increased demand and few remaining surface-level mineral deposits are forcing the mining industry to search deeper underground to find new deposits. Today’s mining companies have had no reliable way to ascertain with confidence the location, size, and density of deposits under the Earth’s cover, so they use traditional ‘hit and miss’ drilling. Drilling is very costly, does not provide visibility across the full survey area, and has damaging environmental impacts – disrupting the landscape and generating carbon emissions across the site.
Clients using the Ideon Discovery Platform can reduce exploration drilling by 10x and increase certainty of discovery to more than 95%. Precision targeting at the beginning of the mine development process is the key to transforming the overall system economics and avoiding extensive environmental impacts.
The Ideon Discovery Platform™ reduces the environmental effects of exploration by minimizing physical impact on the environment, leveraging the Earth’s natural characteristics, reducing time on site, lowering carbon footprint, and contributing to a stronger demonstration of ESG commitment. In short, it accelerates the world’s transition to low-impact mining.
Kim: Talent and culture form the backbone of Ideon. Even with the best possible technology, we could not progress without building the best possible team to advance our vision. Hiring grants like Innovate BC’s Innovator Skills Initiative help us attract and onboard the right talent at the right time, allowing us to get a step ahead when we otherwise might not be able to afford it on our own quite yet.
The employee we hired using this grant does specialized work with advanced muon tomography systems – his role is unique in the world and he has grown with the company as we moved through R&D towards commercialization.
What’s next for Ideon? Are there any updates on the horizon?
Kim: In 2021, Ideon deployed the world’s first borehole muon tomography solution with paying customers, won second place in the international Mining Cleantech Challenge hosted by the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association (CCIA), was named a finalist for Company of the Year (Start-up) with the BC Tech Association, was named a finalist for Most Disruptive Technology in the TECTERRA Awards for the Canada geospatial industry, secured additional equity funding, and announced our leadership of the $13.5M Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project with the Digital Technology Supercluster.
This year, we are primed for scale-up and on a high-velocity path to commercial success.
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