Defence and mining electronics from Adelaide to the world

By Melissa Keogh

Adelaide-based technology company Codan is helping to detect more than gold.

The long-standing radio communications, metal detection and mining technology firm is helping to drive South Australia’s economy into the future.

Managing director Donald McGurk has been with Codan for 17 years and says the company now has a global footprint of 400 staff and raked in $240m last financial year alone.

Not bad for a company founded in Adelaide by three university mates in 1959.

“We are a company that really focuses on developing technology and innovation that applies to metal detecting, radio communication, and mining technology,” Donald says.

“We are trying to solve customer problems in safety, security and productivity.”

Codan managing director Donald McGurk says

Codan managing director Donald McGurk says the company is expected to expand its revenue and create more local jobs in the next five years.

Codan’s location in Adelaide Technology Park at Mawson Lakes positions it at the centre of technology and defence – two of SA’s most promising future industries.

While the company is headquartered in Adelaide, the majority of its high volume products are manufactured overseas with exports representing 85% of its revenue.

With offices in the US, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, China and the United Arab Emirates, Codan’s two core areas of focus centre around creating metal detectors and radio communication systems.

These high-tech, solution-driven businesses create the equipment used by the Australian, British, and US militaries, huge aid and humanitarian organisations and security and mining companies.

Ten years ago, Codan purchased mining business Minelab, which produces the world’s best hand-held gold and metal detectors.

Its other key business, Minetec, creates productivity, safety, tracking and communication systems for underground mining operations.

Codan engineers create equipment used by militaries, aid organisations and security and mining companies.

Codan engineers create equipment used by militaries, aid organisations and security and mining companies.

The recently established Codan Defence Electronics leverages Codan’s key capabilities in RF (Radio Frequency) subsystem design and manufacture, coupled with a track record of supplying land mine and IED (improvised explosive device) detectors.

Donald says Codan is a solution-driven business, as its customers need technology that can be relied upon in harsh, remote and war-torn areas.

“We are trying to keep our customers safe,” Donald says.

“Our customers are relying on our communication systems in some of the most remote and harshest environments in the world.

“We also solve mining problems by making it easier for our customers to improve extraction rates from the mines. Our hand-held metal detectors are used for gold, coin and treasure detecting.”

A big turning point for Codan – originally known as EILCO, the Electronics, Instrument and Lighting Company – came in 1980 when the United Nations chose to use its Codan HF radios for its relief efforts in Uganda.

Codan's headquarters is in Adelaide, while offices exist across the world and products exported to 150 countries.

Codan is headquartered in Adelaide, while offices exist across the world and products are exported to 150 countries.

Donald says this deal provided a gateway into Africa and “really turbocharged” the company’s global footprint.

“We now export to 150 countries,” he says.

“There’s no other company in the world that does everything we do.

“We are the biggest metal detection company in the world … everyone is trying to chase us.”

Codan hopes to expand revenue and create more local jobs in the next five years, a growth that is fitting for SA’s burgeoning defence industry.

This month’s I Choose SA for Industries stories are made possible by sponsor, the University of South Australia.

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