Article in The Australian Journal of Mining — created online Aug 12, 2011
It only took 22 years for Mine Site Technologies to become an overnight success. The communications company that began as a one man band has just received the Austmine Craig Senger Top Exporter award ahead of a stellar field. Mike Foley spoke to the company’s Denis Kent.
Business development manager Kent has been with Mine Site Technologies (MST) almost from the beginning. The Sydney-based company was formed in 1989 by Gary Zamel, with Kent joining him soon after.
“When I started there was the managing director Gary Zamel and a secretary, so there were three of us. At that time we were just beginning the development of our first product,” Kent said. This was the company’s PED System, an ultra-low frequency through-the- earth communications system used for paging, control and remote blasting.
“We had some coal industry research support to develop the PED in the late 1980’s,” said Kent. “We sub-contracted the development out to specialists – the software and electronics. When it became a commercial product, we employed our first technical people to help us install and maintain systems in the field.
“We have always sub-contracted our manufacturing out. We don’t make circuit boards and things ourselves. We own the designs and sub-contract out the manufacture to a number of groups.
“But once we started selling equipment, we needed people who could deal with it. Both Gary and myself are mining engineers by background and we figured out what applications the mines needed.
“[MST] was a one product company from about 1990 to 1994. The cash flow was inconsistent and it was a challenge at times.
“We thought if we are going to grow, even though the PED system does a good job, we needed additional technologies. Mines need two way communications, hence our development of our VDV Leaky Feeder system [for two way voice and basic data communications underground].”
In its early days, MST utilised government support. Kent said it took advantage of AusIndustry funding grants that matched the company’s investments in research and design dollar-for-dollar.
“[MST] had good research and design completed, that we knew would make good products and we could eventually sell,” he said.
More recently, MST has concentrated on digital technologies for mining, culminating in the ImPact Digital suite of products (for underground digital communications). Kent said the ImPact systems “have taken off for MST, so much so it is very challenging to match supply with demand.”
Besides its PED, VDV Leaky Feeder systems and ImPact suite, MST has developed several other product lines. These include: the Tracker tracking and tagging system; VIP vehicle intelligence platform for real-time vehicle diagnostics and payload data; BlastPED remote blast initiation system; and Wireless Mesh for high bandwidth mobile networks on the surface and underground.
MST began in underground mining on the East Coast and then moved to the hard rock sector in Western Australia. “We are now working on the mine sites of most of the major companies in some form,” Kent said.
“We have had to build up our remote offices in Australia … Kalgoorlie, Mackay, Mt Isa and Perth. They are basically staffed by technical and service people to back up and support equipment rather than the sales side of things.”
MST has developed strong overseas sales on the back of its local success, and now has offices around the world.
“Also growing rapidly is our international business, particularly in North America. We have five offices in the U.S as well as offices in Canada and Chile. ….