EWS boosts safety and sustainability at South America’s major mines

Australia’s EWS is helping some of the world’s biggest mining companies improve safety and sustainability in South America.

Australia’s EWS is helping some of the world’s biggest mining companies improve safety and sustainability in South America.

EWS’ satellite communication IoT–based monitoring solutions are installed at mine sites across Brazil and Colombia. They log and transmit critical data from remote locations that helps miners ensure the safety of tailing dams and other critical mine infrastructure, and minimise environmental impact. One of the world’s largest miners is also using EWS solutions to monitor slips on vital rail links.

EWS worked with Austrade to understand the differences between markets, prioritise market entry and connect with the right distributors. In just 1.5 years, the company has secured distributors in the region’s 4 major mining markets – Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru – and continues to explore opportunities across the region.

A solution by industry experts for industry

Founded in 2014, EWS designs and manufactures multi-communication satellite and cellular IoT monitoring products. These products are used for groundwater, surface water, environmental, geotechnical and structural monitoring. They are widely used in the mining, energy, rail and construction industries.

‘EWS was founded by industry experts and maintains a strong team of hydro, geotechnical and environmental specialists to this day,’ says Liam Jeffares, EWS’ Business Development Manager, Global. ‘Our products are designed with a wealth of knowledge of what the industry wants.’

EWS’ products are particularly useful in the mining industry. They are installed on tailings dam walls and perimeters and other sites to capture geotechnical, hydrological and environmental data.

‘Our products are designed for remote locations with little or no terrestrial communications networks,’ says Jeffares. ‘Data is transmitted via satellite links straight to the desktops of users in real time. There’s no need for manual data collection and no risk of data loss if terrestrial communications networks go down. This is what gives our products an edge over our competitors.’

Focus on safety and sustainability opens opportunities

With a large footprint in Australia, EWS looked abroad for new opportunities in 2021. The company set its sights on South America, one of the world’s largest mining regions.

‘Safety and sustainability are top of mind for miners in South America and globally,’ says Jeffares. ‘Due to catastrophic accidents at mines, it’s now a legal requirement to monitor tailing dams, for example. Miners need to keep an eye on the structural integrity of the walls holding up a tailing dam or how the chemical makeup of the dam’s water is affecting surrounding catchments.

‘Mining companies in the region don’t have access to technology that can capture this data easily, reliably and safely,’ says Jeffares. ‘There were good opportunities for us.’

Export success in one of the world’s premier mining regions

In 2021, EWS opened an office in Colombia and employed a local business development manager to find potential distributors. As a relatively new exporter, EWS also called on Austrade for help.

‘Austrade provided market briefings that helped us prioritise our market selection,’ says Jeffares. ‘They introduced us to potential distributors in each market and provided leads on possible projects we could pass on to our distributors. They also introduced us to the right industry networks.

‘Austrade was a massive help and helped pave our entry into South America,’ says Jeffares.

EWS has secured distributors in Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Peru to market and sell its solutions. These distributors have landed some large contracts for EWS, including a major iron ore exporter in Brazil. The company uses EWS’ solution to monitor slips on train lines that transport ore to ports.

Australian mining equipment, technology and services (METS) are highly regarded in South America. Known for their innovation and quality, the world’s top miners are long-time users of Australian METS. EWS’ solutions are used by Anglo American, BHP and Rio Tinto.

Jeffares says each market operates differently and has different requirements. ‘Brazil, for example, has many more certification requirements than other markets. We are now certified for use on the Anatel network in Brazil and FCC in Chile, Colombia and Peru. Our solution also had to pass cyber security checks at customer sites.’

Advice for METS exporters: visit the market

Jeffares advises other METS exporters to get someone on the ground.

‘It’s nearly impossible to grow a business remotely,’ he says. ‘It helps to work with someone locally who knows the market and can approach companies directly.’

He also recommends travelling to the market to better understand its unique challenges and needs. Jeffares saw first-hand the value of EWS’ solution when he visited Brazil in 2022.

‘The remoteness of the site meant there was no cellular network,’ he says. ‘They would have to send someone to collect data, which would be infrequent and dangerous. Our solution means data can be collected at high resolution and sent directly to stakeholders and decision-makers.

‘Mine sites are also at risk of vandalism,’ he adds. ‘Our devices are small and discreet. They are less likely to be spotted and damaged and can continue to perform.’

Expansion is on the cards for EWS. The company recently won its first contract in Africa and continues to look at entering new markets across the globe. But its focus remains strong in the South American region.

‘We’re looking at Argentina next. Ultimately, we want to be in every country in this region,’ says Jeffares.

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