2 Edmonton tech companies recognized for environmental innovations

Two Edmonton tech companies received international recognition from mining industry leaders, winning two of the top three prizes at a recent competition.

2S Water and Copperstone Technologies won prizes at a mining industry competition

2S Water CEO Anthea Sargeaunt holds the sensor that earned her company first prize at a recent international mining industry competition. (Anthea Sargeaunt)

Two Edmonton companies have impressed mining industry leaders from around the world, taking home two of the top three prizes at a recent clean technology competition. 

2S Water and Copperstone Technologies placed first and third, respectively, at the Mining Cleantech Challenge on April 22. 

Of the 56 teams that applied, a dozen were chosen to present their technologies virtually to a global panel of mining industry experts and investors.

Anthea Sargeaunt, the CEO of 2S Water, said winning the competition was "an incredible honour."

"Having this validation from big mining companies, that what we're doing is important to them, just means so much to us right now," she said in an interview on Wednesday with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

Finding metals in mining water

2S Water has spent the past three years researching and developing sensors that detect metals in water.

The sensors can be put to work in multiple industries, including municipal wastewater and oil and gas. 

The company's product resembles a black box and connects to a pipe. Water flows through it and data comes out in real time.

"That lets them adjust their processes so they can make sure the water is actually safe and clean before it passes through their water treatment and into the environment," Sargeaunt said.

Anthea Sargeaunt shows off 2S Water's sensor. (Anthea Sargeaunt)

Detecting metals in water is important for the mining industry, Sargeaunt said, because metal can cause machinery to peel and corrode. It can also lead to environmental fines, lost revenue and site closures. The Canadian coal-mining company, Teck Coal, recently received a $60-million fine for contaminating rivers in British Columbia. In that case, waste rock had leached selenium and calcite into the water. 

Mining companies typically test water by sending samples to a lab, she said, but it can take between 72 hours and 10 days to receive the results. Sensors can speed up that process, saving time and money.

Robots take on tailings ponds

Copperstone Technologies, founded by three graduate students from the University of Alberta in 2014, builds robots for hazardous site investigations.

Like 2S Water, the company's technology has multiple applications. In a mining context, the robots can traverse waste areas called tailings ponds, which can be dangerous for humans to navigate.

CEO Craig Milne said the company's amphibious robots move easily between different types of terrain all year round. They can also carry heavy loads.

More proactive monitoring could prevent environmental catastrophes like the 2014 Mount Polley mine tailings spill in B.C., Milne said.

Copperstone Technologies' HELIX 25 robot can carry 25 kilograms, float on water, and traverse muddy and snowy terrain. (Craig Milne)

Canadians 'outperforming' competition

The Colorado Cleantech Industries Association runs the annual competition. Before the pandemic, it was held in Denver.

Helen El Mallakh, the executive director of the CCIA, said the Edmonton companies impressed the judges because they both presented cost-effective products with a wide application and large growth potential. 

Canadian companies swept the podium this year, with Richmond, B.C.-based Ideon Technologies winning second prize.

"We're increasingly seeing that the Canadian companies are really outperforming a number of other companies," El Mallakh said.

Both Edmonton CEOs said the recognition has led to follow-up meetings with people they met during the competition and business opportunities.


Madeleine Cummings is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She covers local news for CBC Edmonton's web, radio and TV platforms. You can reach her at madeleine.cummings@cbc.ca.