As today is World Environment Day, we thought we would sit down with Sepro’s president, Mark Van Kleek, to discuss his extensive experience with environmentally friendly mining and aggregate solutions. Here’s what he had to say.
How did your experience with environmentally friendly technologies begin?
“The most memorable early experience with environmentally friendly technologies for me is probably the iCon. The UN came to us with their Global Mercury initiative and said we love your machines and we want to reduce mercury poisoning in the environment – can you manufacture a low cost version? So with that we developed a whole product line. Really, centrifuges are inherently environmentally friendly.”
What drove you to take the position as president of Falcon Concentrators back in 2004?
“I was ready for the next step in my career, I had just finished my technology MBA and I wanted a challenge. Falcon had a great company core, the culture was awesome, and I thought I could bring value.”
Why are you passionate about gravity concentration over other forms of mineral recovery?
“I like the idea that gravity concentration is essentially electricity and water only. It’s an elegant solution. You know, there really aren’t a lot of totally new equipment classes coming into mining. When I entered mining, centrifugal gravity concentrators were just beginning to push out the old technology. There are very few totally new equipment classes – gravity concentrators are cutting edge and chemical free.
For some ultrafine material, we are the only company on the entire planet that can solve this ultrafine problem: only gravity solves it, only high Gs, only the cutting edge, the absolute cusp of technology that we’re on. So that’s cool that we can do that.”
Sepro heavily invests in R&D, why is that?
“I took a technology MBA (not a regular one) and when I first tried to get into the technology MBA program they said, “but you’re in mining, you need an executive MBA. There’s no technology in mining.” They didn’t get it, wondering why I wasn’t going into a Silicon Valley type of company. But I think that’s been a missing ingredient in mining – a lack of innovation, a lack of using modern technology development principles and applying them to mining. A lot of R&D in mining has been done in very old-fashioned ways. Within my technology MBA this is the cutting edge of how the high tech industry does it, this is how they iterate things. I didn’t think it was being applied to mining and it’s one of the things I’m passionate about. R&D is also fun. Companies without R&D are boring.”
Much of Sepro’s R&D is focused on reducing water consumption, why is that?
“It’s what we’re hearing out in the industry a lot, the reduction of water usage. The idea of eliminating tailings ponds altogether has come up – our C and UF machines don’t require additional fresh water at all. It’s our own goal, but it’s really been asked for by clients continuously for solutions that require less water, especially in places like Australia. But even Goldcorp, a company based out of Canada which is home to something like 20% of the world’s freshwater, still have their H2Zero initiative. It’s interesting – they’re one of the biggest mining companies, based in a country with abundant freshwater, and even they’re pushing to reduce water usage. If that’s how it is here in Canada, imagine in other countries with less water.”
As a global company, Sepro has sight of customer decision making processes in different regions. Do you notice certain regions prioritizing the environment more?
“Any company based in a ‘first world’ country is operating under modern environmental standards. Companies based elsewhere can be a lot less environmentally stringent. It is especially bad in countries where there’s a lot of corruption – there are some egregious environmental issues that get swept under the rug or just aren’t paid attention to.
The way you win with the environment is to make environmentally friendly technology the most cost effective option. Really, the most powerful driver for the environment has to be economic.”
If you were to speak to a gold producer who wanted to run their project in the most environmentally friendly way, what equipment would you recommend?
“First I would recommend modern and appropriate test work that explores some of the non-chemical options, things like gravity recovery. A lot of the major labs go straight to cyanide and maybe that shouldn’t be the first thing they turn to. Maybe they should look at some other options and do the cost/benefit analysis. A greater focus on a broader range of the newer technologies would be the first step.”
With a growing demand for environmentally friendly solutions, do you see the way mining and aggregate producers operate changing much over the coming years?
“It already has and it’s going to continue to change. There’s increasing environmental pressure across the world. And that’s another reason to do lots of R&D because we need to be at the cutting edge of solutions for that, for our own social good but for the economic good as well.”
If you are interested in finding out more about any of the topics Mark touched on, or Sepro’s range of efficient mining and aggregate solutions, speak to our experts today.