Perth's brightest minds unearth a mine of solutions for Nickel West

Over 100 innovators gathered at CORE Innovation Hub over the weekend of 13-15 April 2018 to tackle one of four real operational challenges from BHP Nickel West at Unearthed Perth 2018, which marked the fifth anniversary of the inaugural resources technology hackathon in 2014.

The 54 hour open innovation event was a celebration of an incredible community coming together to crowdsource innovative solutions to some of mining’s toughest challenges.

On opening night, Nickel West Head of Integrated Operations Karl Stokes announced Nickel West's vision of energising their future through innovation and technology and went on to introduce the valuable opportunity for Perth's brightest minds to take their solutions through to implementation.

Nickel West Head of Integrated Operations Karl Stokes addresses the talented crowd at Unearthed Perth 2018

“Working with Unearthed is a great opportunity to connect with some of the best minds in the technology and data science space. Nickel West is in an exciting period as we are set to become a globally significant battery material supplier very soon. We are excited about the outcomes and ideas that are going to be generated over this one innovative weekend,” said Stokes.

Co-Founder and Chair of thriving Western Australian startup Power Ledger Dr Jemma Green also gave a keynote address at Unearthed Perth, imparting sound entrepreneurial advice to the teams of innovators.

Co-Founder and Chair of thriving Western Australian startup Power Ledger, Dr Jemma Green

"While your brain is solving one particular problem, have some kind of deep background commercial question running at the same time," Green said.

Students and professionals from the science, engineering, business, entrepreneurial, software development and mathematics disciplines put their skills to the test and worked tirelessly over the 54-hour event, creating 21 insightful solutions in response to Nickel West's four major operational challenges.

The top 14 teams pitched their technology prototypes to the esteemed judging panel and fellow innovators at the conclusion of the hackathon.

First prize was taken out by Team Steel Ballers, a group of University of Western Australia Engineering alumni, who developed Unleashing SAG2, a state based simulation and Genetic Algorithm in response to Nickel West’s Mt Keith grinding circuit optimisation challenge.

First prize was taken out by Team Steel Ballers, a group of University of Western Australia Engineering alumni

"We used Machine Learning Regressions to unleash a Digital Twin Model of the SAG crusher, which was then used along with a Genetic Algorithm to adjust operator tuneable parameters to increase the processing throughput of an ore crushing circuit by 3%," said team member Rohan Mehra.

In addition to winning $2500 cash, plus tech prizes with the support of SAP and Amazon Web Services, Team Steel Ballers will head out and see the exciting expansion work at Nickel West's Kwinana Nickel Refinery, which will feed into the battery market. They will meet with Nickel West staff on site and pitch their prototype, giving them the edge in moving their solution closer to implementation.

Eclipse won second place for their Holistic Process Solution; a proposed solution to the Kwinana Nickel Refinery challenge involving regulating leach recovery process, which supports operator decisions and process stability through process response predictions, and is powered by machine learning.

Second place winners Team Eclipse at Unearthed Perth 2018

"By using machine learning to analyse two years of process history, our solution is able to predict likely future process performance and determine which inputs the operators should adjust to minimise reactant use, minimise process upsets, and maximise recovery and yield," said Eclipse team member Andrew Vinciguerra.

Team Rush Hour took out the young innovator award at Unearthed Perth 2018

The young innovator award went to Rush Hour, who tackled the second Kwinana Nickel Refinery challenge: preventing shutdowns from solid scale build up in pipes, by developing Radiclean. Their solution uses flux to ionise and create turbulence by implementing a control system logic based on the data provided.

People's choice award winners: Team SENSE-U-ALL at Unearthed Perth 2018

Team SENSE-U-ALL won the people’s choice award for their innovative solutions to automatically detect and localise where air ingress is occurring at the Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter offgas train, using a trace gas detection system and temperature monitoring.

Team ECU (Edith Cowan University) - winners of the CORE Start award at Unearthed Perth 2018

Finally, CORE Innovation Hub presented a special prize to Team ECU for their SAG Mill LRS Control solution: the CORE Start award, which provides the team with 3 months of co-working at CORE as well as facilitated industry connections and support to grow their business; co-located in the heart of the Unearthed network.

Congratulations to the winners of Unearthed Perth 2018 and all innovators who participated in the event.

Unearthed Perth teams now have the opportunity to apply directly to the Unearthed Accelerator program, which provides selected startups seed funding and access to experienced industry mentors, amongst other training and facilities, to grow and commercialise their prototypes into products.

“Alumni from Unearthed Accelerator 2017 have graduated with industry contracts and are continuing to build sustainable businesses with global markets. We were excited to discover new talent in Perth and look forward to welcoming the 2018 startups to the program later this year,” said Unearthed Director, Justin Strharsky.

Unearthed would like to thank our supporters: BHP Nickel West, City of PerthSAPAmazon Web Services, and Austmine, and all of the mentors and judges who volunteered their time to share their domain expertise, provide valuable feedback, and improve the participants' understanding of the challenges and data.

Since Unearthed Perth 2014, over 4000 individuals who form part of a talented and ever-expanding network of innovators across Australia, South Africa, the US, Canada and South America have engaged with Unearthed.

“With the support of our resources technology community, we have run 26 hackathons in 14 cities, 6 online competitions, 2 accelerator programs and 4 demo days; addressed over 100 industry challenges with terabytes of data; witnessed the development of over 400 prototype solutions, and the distribution of over $250,000 in cash and $150,000 in credits and prizes,” said Unearthed Director Zane Prickett.

Full details on Unearthed and its global open innovation program for the resources sector can be found at: