Benedikt Kirchgässler & Mathias Cherbuin
CEO & CTO, CYANOGUARD
Read the orginal article here: https://www.gbreports.com/interview/benedikt-kirchgassler-mathias-cherbuin
Can you briefly introduce CyanoGuard and explain the company’s focus?
BK: CyanoGuard’s mission is to reduce toxic reagent usage and improve precious metal recoveries by providing a reliable, efficient, user-friendly and intelligent cyanide monitoring and optimization solution. We basically help gold mines improve recoveries and reduce cyanide usage, saving them money and reducing their environmental footprint.
How has the research and development of CyanoGuard’s products evolved in the last 12 months?
MC: We have taken what we learned from CyanoGuard’s initial pilot studies to grow the product to not only be used for simpler, faster and safer cyanide detection, but to enable our digital platform to help reduce cyanide consumption and support customers to make better, quicker decisions. We wanted to digitize their whole cyanide monitoring process, not only the actual measurement process, which traditionally is a very manual, laborious and slow process that involves taking results physically to a lab and waiting for results. CyanoGuard’s results can be processed on-site with no waiting time, and we have added data and a GPS location tracker that transmits to a cloud platform. This all comes together in CyanoGuard’s online platform, which allows mining companies to take a data-driven approach, instead of estimating the cyanide levels they require.
In April CyanoGuard raised CHF 3 million (US$3.08 million) from a seed round led by Wingman Ventures. Can you elaborate on what the company intends to do with these funds?
BK: We have been focused on raising the funds and acquiring the necessary resources to take the company to the next level. Roughly 50% of the raise was venture capital, and the other part came from an innovation program from the European Union, which is interested in helping CyanoGuard advance technology that can benefit the European mining industry. Now we can scale our solution to support both small and large mining operations. We can take on more clients and initiate more pilot projects. Part of the funding will go into expanding the digital and artificial intelligence based aspects of our technology, which we have seen is where most of the value for mining companies will come from.
What type of savings could a gold mining company expect to make using CyanoGuard technology?
BK: The use of CyanoGuard’s technology allows gold mines to reduce their cyanide consumption by 15-20%. As well as reducing cyanide under-delivery, by minimizing these times, we can increase gold recovery by about 2%. Operating costs have a large impact on how net return is calculated, so our solution is valuable on a corporate level to shareholders, as well as the mine operators.
"A large part of CyanoGuard’s focus for 2020 is dedicated to a new pilot program for a number of gold mining sites to test our technology without any commitment. We hope this leads to a big uptake in the coming years as companies look to reduce cyanide consumption and increase gold recoveries."
How has the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown impacted the company’s plans, and how do you think this could impact the use of cyanide at mine sites in the coming months?
MC: From a strategy standpoint, we were initially planning on having dedicated contact points for each key region, but now we are trying to centralize everything within Switzerland and deploy the solution remotely. Cyanosmart is a handheld device, comparable to a mobile phone, thus can be shipped economically via regular postal services. We also have visual instructions and online guides so companies can learn to use the technology in a short amount of time.
BK: The recent price volatility and government enforced lockdown has made mining companies more aware they have to cut costs and bring their operations to the next level from a technological standpoint, which we believe should benefit CyanoGuard.
Do you expect cyanide-free gold recovery to gain traction in the future?
BK: I definitely see this happening in the future, however, the question is when, and whether it will actually be better for the environment. We are in touch with companies that work with such technology because we are interested in the research, and the one thing I notice from a technical standpoint is that they sometimes require quite high reagent consumption. From a chemical standpoint, cyanide is very efficient in precious metals recovery, so it would be very difficult to come up with something that can compete in the near future. Cyanide is very toxic in the short term, but in the long term it usually does not accumulate as it degrades naturally. If you monitor cyanide well, you mitigate the associated risks, whereas alternative solutions that use chemical reagents may have longer-term consequences for a mine site and its surrounding communities.
In which regions are CyanoGuard’s solutions most applicable?
BK: In the beginning, we focused in Central and South America, and from PDAC this year we have been expanding our focus into North America, as well as adding South Africa and Russia to our target markets. The beauty of CyanoGuard’s technology is that it can be shipped to anywhere in three to four days and works out of the box, so we are not limited. When entering a new market, we look for local experts who know the language, culture and the needs of the mines that are specific to each jurisdiction.
What are the main objectives for CyanoGuard outlined in the company’s growth strategy?
MC: The recently received funding will be used to scale up production in Switzerland, as well as rolling out software upgrades, studies, and online training for our clients. A large part of CyanoGuard’s focus for 2020 is dedicated to a new pilot program for a number of gold mining sites to test our technology without any commitment. We hope this leads to a big uptake in the coming years as companies look to reduce cyanide consumption and increase gold recoveries.
BK: We therefore invite readers to get in touch, visit our website and join our upcoming webinars to learn more about the opportunities that our technology and our pilot program can offer them.