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Bestech celebrates sale to Barrick

Bestech, a Sudbury industrial automation and software development company, has sold its mine-wide energy management and asset control solution to Barrick Gold’s Goldstrike Underground Division in Elko, Nevada.

Developed in Sudbury and already deployed at Xstrata Nickel’s Fraser, Craig and Thayer Lindsley mines in Sudbury and at Xstrata Copper’s Kidd Creek Mine in Timmins, NRG-1 is being used at the Goldstrike complex to centrally control 165 auxiliary fans.  Turning off the fans for an hour and a half per day to coincide with cross shifts will save Barrick approximately $600,000 per year, predicted Adam Tonnos, Bestech’s manager of sales and product development.

Barrick had its own ventilation on demand system at Goldstrike, but decided that integrating it with NRG-1 would “be an easier way of achieving its goals,” remarked Tonnos.

The NRG-1 solution automates fan operation based on shift schedules. It also integrates with air monitoring sensors and RFID tagging systems to control fans based on the quality of the air or the combined horsepower of diesel equipment in an underground zone. Operators can bypass the time of day controls to turn on individual fans or, in an emergency, “direct air to where it’s needed based on preconfigured scenarios …without having to click 100 different fans.”

The energy savings possible from ventilation on demand technology have prompted a number of mines to develop their own systems, but they often run into problems with maintenance, support and integration with other systems, said Tonnos

NRG-1 works with either fiber-based or leaky feeder communication systems and also allows for the control of primary and booster fans with variable speed drives.

Goldstrike Senior Engineer Anton Meyer presented the results of the NRG-1 deployment to a Barrick North America technical conference in October, raising Bestech’s hopes for additional sales to Barrick operations in Africa and Australia.

CVRD Inco has also deployed NRG-1 at its Copper Cliff North Mine with the goal of integrating it with their mine ventilation modeling software.

Tonnos estimates there are 350 underground mines worldwide that would be suitable for ventilation on demand technology.

Opportunities in South America are being pursued through distributors in Chile and Peru. In fact, a delegation from Codelco recently visited CVRD Inco operations in Sudbury to learn about ventilation on demand technology in preparation for a 175,000 tonne per day underground mine planned for its Chuquicamata operation.

Bestech is working to create a consortium of research institutions and companies to facilitate interoperability of ventilation on demand solutions, modeling applications and communication systems. The group could include Mine Ventilation Services, a Fresno, California developer of ventilation modeling software, Mine Site Technologies, a supplier of communication systems and the Sudbury-based Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO).

Bestech is also celebrating the recent sale of educational licenses for NRG-1 to Cambrian College and College Boreal. The integration of NRG-1 into the mining technology and electronics engineering programs at the two Sudbury-based post-secondary institutions will ensure that graduates entering the workforce are knowledgeable about the system.

Bestech currently has 60 people on staff, triple the number of employees it had just three years ago.

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