Following an increase of 20 percent into mineral exploration spending in 2017 – the first increase in five years – optimism was again seen in the industry from participants at the Association for Mineral Exploration’s Roundup 2018 conference.
The event, attended by more than 6,570 participants representing 39 countries, saw an 11 percent increase from 2017. Held in Vancouver from January 22-25, acQuire was a silver sponsor, sponsoring one of the technical sessions. The Association for Mineral Exploration (AME), which hosts Roundup, is the lead association for the mineral exploration and development industry based in British Columbia, Canada.
The activity level and ‘buzz’ has definitely increased for exploration organisations of all sizes, especially the junior sector. Last year the term “cautious optimism” was used to describe the markets and industry. This year the feeling was more optimistic, as we see more expenditure on gold and trending commodities like lithium.
Whilst the fundamentals of some exploration are still traditional and ‘low tech’, innovation was a key theme for larger players as they look for step changes over traditional methods that have not reaped rewards for a while. Virtual reality (VR), drones and data analysis tools like IBM’s Watson are being considered for the next wave of innovation.
Enabling people to interact with remote sites and operations through technology is an emerging trend. Use of remote technology in real world mining applications is growing and there were a number of virtual reality tools being demonstrated on the Trade Show floor.
Manager of Geospatial Solutions, Dave Donaldson, at Teck Resources ran a live VR demo at their stand. Their booth showcased a virtual tour of their Galore Creek Development Project. Visitors could navigate over the Stikine River and Galore Valley and also check out construction camps, bridges, drillholes, ore bodies and more. VR is being used to allow senior management to take a VR tour of the proposed operations and see firsthand improvements being made on site. It can also be used as a key tool for the community engagement and potentially help community buy-in.
Many of the larger players are starting to look at how machine learning and advanced data analytics can help them with exploration.
Director of Strategic Technology Solutions at Goldcorp, Robin Fell, spoke at the Innovation Hub panel discussion about their IBM Watson project at Red Lake mine. Goldcorp have been using the technology to assist their geologists to make more discoveries of gold at the mine. In 2018 they have committed to train Watson to “think like a geologist”.
One of the challenges for the team at Goldcorp to allow IBM Watson to help them find new deposits was to feed it data from throughout the company’s history, which required organising data from various sources and in different formats.
Across the board big companies are still trying to deal with legacy data and data formats. ‘Dark data’, which is data outside the main dataset not typically used for analysis or decision making, was also a topic mentioned at our GIM Jam Mastermind held in Vancouver. Likewise, juniors rely on bespoke solutions to connect their datasets together for analysis.
To use the new wave of analytical tools, you need your data to be valid, organised and accessible so it can make the best possible recommendation to the questions of geologists.
Thank you to all our customers and the wider resources community who connected with us at AME Roundup 2018. We invite you to get in contact if you wish to learn more about our GIM Suite technology and vision for the road to the digital mine. We’ll be more than happy to discuss how geoscience data will play an important role.