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From ore to digital: modernizing solvent extraction in mining

TypeScript, Python, Monorepo, React, Functional Programming, Terraform, GCP
Aerial photo of mine

Since 2018, we've had the privilege of collaborating with Syensqo, a global leader in materials, solutions, and chemicals, in developing their proprietary Digital Mining Solutions. The journey to this multifunctional platform’s development began with SolvExtract, a user-friendly, scalable app that empowers Syensqo account managers and their clients to navigate the complexities of optimizing solvent extraction within mines.

Recognizing an opportunity for further enhancement, Syensqo approached us to integrate and elevate their existing modelling tool, MINCHEM, from its 1980s foundation to a modern, streamlined digital platform. This would later be complemented by a third platform component, RGS, a report generation system that zooms in on real-time data, keeping users informed of activities within the plant. Here’s how we did it.

The challenge

MINCHEM is used to run simulations of solvent extraction circuit designs. And, while the original software was very powerful, it was stuck in the past having been developed with obsolete programming languages and paradigms, lacking modern features, and being impossible to maintain and grow. For this product to undergo a digital transformation, we would need to transition it from an on-premises software (hosted locally, running on personal computers) to a web-based software (hosted on GCP—Google Cloud Platform) and accessed via the internet. Our aim was to enhance speed, performance, and to add additional modelling capabilities.

At the beginning of the project, we were confronted with high levels of unknowns (upwards of 70%). This meant we would need to partner closely with our client to co-create the product, apply agile/scrum methodologies, and discover needs as we progressed through development. Managing the integration of new modules onto the existing platform was crucial. And, while our core expertise is in programming, it would be imperative to get up-to-speed on the dense subject matter of chemistry.

The task at end

We accompanied our client on a Discovery of their own product. Leveraging the documentation provided, we did the analysis side-by-side, following best practices to ensure the new web application would offer a seamless experience for all end users. We worked at a micro level to meet the features’ acceptance criteria, and also at a macro level to make sure the application would be robust, fast, and secure. Our full-cycle developers handled both front-end and back-end developments seamlessly.

What truly set our collaboration apart was having the entire team together instead of working remotely. We held in-person meetings at our office, where our clients described their processes. This close integration allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in their domain lingo, enabling us to speak the same language. Consequently, when we discussed something, the client immediately understood, and when they delved into domain processes, we were on the same page, embodying the essence of what’s known as domain-driven design (DDD).

The end result

We’re proud to have successfully transformed an outdated system into a modernized platform—ensuring that MINCHEM maintains the pioneer and gold standard in the SX-EW (solvent extraction and electrowinning) domain.\ The journey from ideation to the official launch spanned 11 months, and MINCHEM has been actively in production since September 2019. As a web application expands, the complexity of code management intensifies. We remain committed to refining and enhancing MINCHEM with innovative features and modules. Our success in managing intricate modules throughout this prolonged project highlights the value of cultivating tight-knit relationships with our clients.

Today, MINCHEM is making an impact by offering streamlined and efficient solvent extraction circuit design, leading to enhanced operational performance and profitability. Syensqo appreciates our team’s ability to deliver on time and on budget, despite starting the project with limited information and continuously adding new capabilities in their Digital Mining Solution.

What's next...

Syensqo’s pursuit of digital transformation and innovation is a testament to why they continue to be a leader in their industry. This project further reinforced our belief that deep-rooted collaboration with clients yields superior products. We don’t see ourselves as mere suppliers—we are, at heart, partners. And the longevity of such partnerships allows us to maintain a steady pool of resources and committed team members, while progressively deepening technological insights.

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Project details
Software Development project for Syensqo
Technologies used
  • TypeScript
  • Python
  • Monorepo
  • React
  • Functional Programming
  • Terraform
  • GCP