Founded in 2016, CyanoGuard is dedicated to shaping the future of cyanide detection, monitoring, and optimization for gold mining applications. CEO and founder, Benedikt Kirchgaessler and CTO, Mathias Cherbuin of the Zurich-based chemtech startup share more about how they’re solving some of the mining industry’s biggest challenges as part of the Prospect Mining Studio.

1. Why did you start CyanoGuard? Do you remember the moment you first thought of the idea?

The idea started in 2015 when I was working on a research project on cyanide sensing corrinoids in Prof. Zelder’s lab at the University of Zurich. The outcome of the research was a groundbreaking technology, awarded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, because it was the fastest, safest, and most easy-to-use method in the detection and measurement of cyanide. I quickly discovered the tremendous impact this technology could have on food safety, emergency healthcare, and industrial applications if made available commercially, and decided to start the company. We quickly began to focus on the mining industry, where cyanide is critical and used in nearly 90 percent of the industrial gold production. Cyanide is still a big pain point for operators and mining companies as it is expensive, toxic, and difficult to monitor.

2. How do you see CyanoGuard solving some of the mining industry’s biggest challenges?

Existing cyanide monitoring methods are still highly manual, inefficient, and often yield incorrect results. With traditional methods, mine operators have to collect the samples from various locations, bring them to the laboratory, and sometimes wait for several days to get the test results. Our next-generation cyanide monitoring solution is fast, simple, reliable, and can be done onsite with no waiting time. Mining operators can instantly and accurately test their samples and transmit the data onto our AI-based cloud platform. With this information, mine operators can quickly monitor their cyanide usage and make necessary adjustments, thereby extracting more gold more efficiently and with less cyanide. In summary, we enable gold mines to become resource-efficient and transform their heuristic, experience-based production process into a data-driven one.

3. How do you foresee frontier technology advancing the mining and natural resource industries?

Many frontier technologies already exist, but have not yet found the right application in the mining industry. Mining 4.0 is a trending topic where we look at how digital transformation is possible in developing smart mines of the future. It is about introducing automation, analytics, and artificial intelligence that helps mine operators make empowered decisions for responsible mining. This is also what we offer in our next generation cyanide monitoring solution. As the mining industry faces increasing pressure to meet productivity and sustainability standards, we hope this will encourage faster adoption of digital technology as an industry-wide best practice.

4. What do you see as your role in making mining safer and more sustainable?

Our solution helps to reduce cyanide consumption and costs by 15 percent and enables mines to increase their gold recovery by 2 percent without any capital expenditure requirement. Not to mention the reduction in the use of detox reagent and water consumption and the time saved in waiting for test results. All measured data are stored and secured on our A.I.-based cloud platform, allowing mine operators to have an overview of their cyanide usage. At the end of the day, we are not just offering a reliable, real-time cyanide monitoring solution that brings cost savings and operational efficiency for mine operators, but also a solution that mitigates the risks of cyanide-based gold leaching.