Gekko Mining Services firm planning gold mine of the future
Imagine a gold mine that produces not tons of rock that must then be transported away, processed and dumped, but finished gold bars. That’s the vision of Elizabeth Lewis-Gray, CEO of Gekko Mining Services, and she’s working to make it a reality.
Gekko is an award-winning Victorian firm that is blazing an international trial in the rapidly growing mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector. They specialise in designing and manufacturing low-energy, low-footprint modular gold processing plants.
“We modularise and miniaturise a lot of the processing of ore with a view to making the technology more cost-effective for remote locations and underground processing,’’ explains Ms Lewis-Gray.
“People buy our technology for use on difficult-to-reach sites. When there are big plants to be shipped and unloaded in remote locations, it can be a real challenge.’’
Australia’s METS industry is big business. It contributes over 6 per cent of GDP, employs almost twice as many Australians as the mining industry and is one of nation’s largest export sectors. (1)
Victoria’s share of the METS sector is significant, with annual revenues of approximately A$17 billion (2) and the highest number of METS companies exporting of any state.
Gekko is a world leader in an area of METS known as smart mining. Compared to traditional mining methods, smart mining relies more on hi-tech equipment and software, and is characterised by higher capital costs. But it delivers lower production costs and is far safer and more environmentally friendly.
The global smart mining market was valued at almost US$6 billion in 2014 and is projected to reach over US$22 billion by 2024, equating to an annual growth rate of almost 15 per cent from 2016 to 2024. (3)
One example of Gekko’s innovative products is the Python, a plant that can be installed above ground or deep within mines to separate and deliver only the mineral-rich fraction of ore, concentrated to just 10-30 per cent of the original mass.
“One day it will be just a gold bar that comes up from underground,’’ says Ms Lewis-Gray. “We’ve been working on it for 15 years.’’
Gekko’s services are in high demand worldwide, and it has offices in several countries. It is currently working on its biggest job to date, an A$85 million project in the Arctic circle.
Because of the difficult site access, Gekko constructed an entire modular mining plant in Victoria and shipped it in 200 containers from their factory in Ballarat via the port of Geelong to Nunavut, in Canada’s remote Arctic Archipelago.
“The Nunavut plant has been really successful,’’’ says Ms Lewis-Gray. “As a result of that we are now getting lots of interest globally for similar technology, and in applying it to underground.’’
Convention and trade show
In her capacity as chair of METS Ignited, a government-funded industry body, Ms Lewis-Gray recently attended the PDAC mining convention and trade show in Vancouver, Canada, along with 35,000 other delegates.
METS Ignited is currently working together with the Victorian government to develop a similar conference in Melbourne. With the state a world leader in the mining supply industry it makes sense to host such an event here, says Ms Lewis-Gray.
Last year, Gekko secured the Governor of Victoria Export Award and then advanced to the national round, where they were the first Victorian business to win the national Australian Export Award in the Minerals, Energy and Related Services section. But they’re not resting on their laurels.
“It’s such an exciting field,’’ say Ms Lewis-Gray. “We have lots of new projects we’re working on globally, and several new technologies we’re currently developing.’’
(1) Mets Ignited