Windfall Geotek Inc (CVE:WIN) Using Mining AI Technology to Aid Global Land Mine Problem
Windfall Geotek Inc (CVE:WIN) (OTCMKTS:MJXFF) (FRA:L7C2) CEO Dinesh Kandanchatta joins Midas Letter to discuss how the company are using its advanced technology used in its mining projects to aid in the worldwide problem of land mine discovery. Windfall Geotek have been using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and knowledge-extraction techniques since 2005 in the mining sector and have now began field testing of drone-based anti-personnel mine (APM) and improvised explosive device (IED) solutions. Approximately CAD $700,000,000 was spent in 2019 to deal with this problem which could represent a substantial new revenue stream for Windfall Geotek. Windfall Geotek also have a portfolio of gold, copper and zinc properties in Quebec.
James West: Dinesh Kandanchatta joins me now. He is the Chairman of Windfall Geotek, Inc. Dinesh, welcome back.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: Good to see you, man.
James West: Yeah, it’s great to see you too, Dinesh. You have your fingers in so many pies; tell me about Windfall Geotek.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: Windfall Geotek is a geotechnology firm. So, we’ve spent the last 15 years in the mining sector using artificial intelligence and machine learning for digital exploration. The biggest challenge in mining is limited capital, trying to find what amounts to a pot of gold in a very large claim area. So what the CARDS system is able to do is identify and shrink the area of exploration, thereby getting better ROI for investors, and also, you know, allowing junior mining companies to be able to progressively go back to market without investing, you know, too much upfront.
James West: Mm-hmm. So what is the essence of the technology? Is it statistical analysis?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: It’s a combination of different factors. It is machine learning, so anomaly detection; the way that the technology works is that it understands a known good context, so if you have, as Michelle, our CEO says, the best place to find a mine is next to a mine. And so, if we know we have a great geological context that has found mineralization in the past, we’re able to then look for a signature that would, in a large claim, for example, that has a similar mineralization pattern.
James West: Sure.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: And we use multiple sensor technologies in order to do that. And so, that’s a very interesting application to the mining sector.
James West: So it’s like artificial intelligence for mining?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: Yeah. Awesome, excellent. I didn’t even pay you to say that. [laughter]
James West: You could! No, okay, so give me an example of the technology succeeding in actually finding a deposit.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: So we’ve done over 86 projects over 15 years; over 30 discoveries. That’s the great thing, what really attracted me to this company post- my involvement with Patriot, was the fact that I was looking for an organization that had a proven technology that could potentially be applied to other markets. And, you know, there’s very few things in AI machine learning that time and data can’t solve. And the majority of the players out there in the marketplace today don’t have, A), are brand new, or they haven’t got the historical track record of projects that Windfall has, specifically, the CARDS platform.
So I was like, okay, so this is something that’s proven. This is technology that has, you know, that has made significant discoveries over the course of the last 15 years. What else could we use this for? Because there’s a lot of really valuable things in the ground. You know, mineralization of course is one, but there’s a lot of other stuff, too.
And with my background in the defense and security sector, I was thinking through what are the big problems. You know, we talk a lot at Patriot about the scourge of concealed weapons, and, you know, the pain it causes families. Well, you know, an equally large pain is the scourge of land mines. And you know, we’ve seen a lot over the last few years of organizations, you know, posting out about young families and children getting maimed and killed by land mines that were placed 50 years ago or 70 years ago.
So I saw some very potential for some great social good with a proven technology and huge markets. You know, around $700 million, roughly, was spent last year just trying to clear the existing problem of land mines, and 100 million land mines out there. So if you’re really good at finding stuff in the ground, and we can find gold and copper and silver and zinc, what about – and that’s hundreds, if not thousands, of feet in the ground – what about a disk this big that’s six inches under the ground? How could we use that same algorithm to find those, and thereby maybe make a big difference in some people’s lives?
And so that’s what got me thinking. So in Spring of last year, some common friends of ours asked me to go and take a look at this company. I flew up to Brassard, I got to spend some time with the team there, the developers, and I saw, you know what? These guys have got something. Now, it really comes down to, just because you’ve got a great technology, that doesn’t create a great company. So now what we need to do is, we need to put that awesome core technology and build a great company around it.
So that’s what we’ve been doing over the last six months. We’ve been signing contracts, getting, you know, as close as we can to cash flow positive, and now, as we announced this morning, we’ve completed our first drone-based land mine detection test. And so we are now at a place where we can identify, albeit it’s a very large anti-tank mine, but it’s the first step in being able to use drones and proven mining surveying technology with our CARDS algorithm, to maybe deal with this very, very painful problem.
James West: You bet. Okay, so, you’re saying that this can be used in mining, but it’s also got an application for land mine detection. How many land mines are there still out there?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: 100 million, as per the last count, and it’s growing by tens of thousands every year.
James West: Wow. Who’s spreading land mines at this point?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: It’s pretty horrible to think, but a lot of people are. In fact, it’s one of those things where you think it’s, well, this is a World War I problem, right? Why do we need to deal with land mines now? But it’s still very much –
James West: So obviously in war zones like Syria, probably?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: Syria, Yemen, Bosnia, Northern Africa, Cambodia, Vietnam, parts of Northern India, parts of China…like, this is, 86 countries have current contaminated zones.
James West: Wow. How much is spent now, globally, on clearing land mines?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: So last year, roughly $700 million USD last year.
James West: Really?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: It’s estimated that the global problem is a $100 billion problem, and what’s preventing the, you know, the mass adoption of technology is the fact that current solutions are ground-based. The analogy I use is, when we started mining, what did geologists do? They went and walked, right? The plain. You tried to see if you could hit a few rocks and see something, right?
James West: Right.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: And then along came aircraft, and you had to pay for this very expensive plane, and then took a survey. And then a few years ago, drones showed up, and everything changed in mining. It’s the exact same thing happening in the land mine industry. Up till, like, even now, there’s no drone-based solution that is commercial in the market. But, drones exist. They’re now economical; we can use those surveying techniques.
James West: Sure.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: So, we don’t have to take a dog, which is currently, believe it or not, the best way to go and search for land mines is an operator with a dog sniffing for explosives. I mean, horrible, horrible. It feels like World War I stuff.
James West: Does the dog get blown up?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: I mean, hopefully not.
James West: Yeah, no kidding.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: But I mean, it’s not nice for the – it’s not nice for the operator or the service animal. So our objective is to use technology – drones, sensors – that are proven in the mining context with a, you know, proven AI-based algorithm, to try to take a lot of the threat out of this problem. And, you know, we’ve just started down that road.
James West: Sure. So this is a commercial-ready technology?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: The components are all commercial-ready, but no one has put them together.
James West: Okay.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: So that’s where we are. The current stage in our testing is, we have commercial-grade drones; we have sensors that light our mag, thermal, used every day in the mining sector. So we don’t need to develop new sensors, we don’t need to get new certification. You remember with Patriot, we had to develop a whole bunch of new technology? No, this stuff is being used every day in exploration to get – so that’s a great advantage. It’s also a great accelerator of the business plan.
What’s not been tested is putting these pieces together with a qualified operator to be able, in Yemen or in Bosnia or in Northern Africa, to be able to operate those very tight survey lines so that we can get quality data to be able to apply to the algorithm.
James West: Well, that’s fantastic. All right, so then how soon until this is commercially producing capital, or revenue, rather?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: Revenue, yeah. So there’s, you know, the story is very similar to the Patriot story; there’s some pretty, you know, well-defined gates. The first gate is a validated, independently validated field trial, which is the stage we’re at now.
James West: Okay, so that’s happening in 2020?
Dinesh Kandanchatta: That’s happening, yeah, probably before the summer.
James West: Great.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: And, you know, with that comes partnerships with, you know, commercial-grade drone manufacturers, preferably ones with existing relationships with defense contractors. And also, survey companies to help us operate the drone software company. So we need somebody to help us with that. So those partnerships are what Michelle and I are actively engaged in right now. We’ve done our first test – good news, we found something! We were able to use our combination of drone plus sensor plus algorithm to be able to identify that this is viable prototype.
Taking it from prototype to commercial technology is the first step. But that’s not the last step, because you know how it works: you’re going to get in and governments are going to go, well, prove it to me. So then paid pilots become the next step. And so we expect to be in the paid pilot arena by the end of the calendar year, and then leveraging, you know, what I believe are great relationships that we’ve built through the development of the Patriot technology, go back to some of those channel partners and say, Look, we have something new.
The majority of the Patriot channel partners were ex-military; they’ve lived the experience of land mine and unexploded ordinance daily in their professional careers, so they understand how difficult it is, and I genuinely believe if we can provide a great technology with a good revenue share platform for them, they’ll take on the business.
James West: Well, sounds great, Dinesh. You’ve done it before, and I’m glad to see you’re going to do it again. Thanks very much for joining me today.
Dinesh Kandanchatta: Thank you very much, James. Great to see you again.
James West: You bet.
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