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Data Tools Game-Changer For Mining and Exploration

multi-sensory core scanner

A Boart Longyear multi-sensory core scanner improves data collection at the company's site in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia.

Credit: Simon Stanbury

Research scientists and industry are joining together to develop and commercialize new tools using cutting-edge digital technologies including machine learning that they say will be a game-changer for mining and exploration.

Launched by Australia's Education and Training Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham, the Geovision Cooperative Research Centre Project (Geovision CRCp) is a collaboration by the University of Adelaide, drilling giant Boart Longyear, and South Australian specialist software company SRA Information Technology.

The three-year project is being funded with a $2.1 million grant from the Australian Government through the Cooperative Research Centres Program, with another $2.4 million of cash and in-kind support from the three partners. The CRCp grants are for industry-led collaborations to develop important new technologies, products, and services that will solve industry problems and deliver tangible outcomes.

The new tools will incorporate multisensory core scanners and sensors, data fusion, and machine learning for improved geological and structural data collection enabling near real-time, automated decision-making at exploration and mining sites, as well as globally.

Minister Birmingham says the Turnbull Government's CRCp program supports businesses and research institutions to solve industry-specific issues and deliver new products, technologies, or services.

"The $2.1 million investment from the Turnbull Government backs a project that will position South Australia, the University of Adelaide, and local industry at the cutting edge of these new technologies and the opportunities they offer," Birmingham says.

"This project brings together Boart Longyear's global expertise in Geological Data Services, Drilling services and equipment, and industry knowledge, with SRA software and technical architecture know-how, and the University of Adelaide's leading research in computer vision, machine learning, geology, and mineralogy. Together we'll produce these novel technologies as a game-changer in mining and exploration," says Professor Stephen Grano, Director of the University of Adelaide's Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources.

"This is about industry and research working together to find solutions to industry problems, leading to improved economic viability for mining and exploration that will benefit both industry and Australia," Grano says.

Peter Kanck, Boart Longyear Senior Manager, Technology Development and Integration, says: "Exploration and mining companies risk a great deal of money on drilling without maximizing the information they could get from each drilled hole.

"Data and Core analysis is a time-consuming, expensive process with results often not available for weeks or months and the data is in multiple formats that isn't easily integrated for optimum outputs. At the moment strategic decisions are being made based on incomplete or poorly correlated information," Kanck says.

"This project will develop a commercial product that will significantly speed up data collection approaching real time, lower the costs of collecting and analyzing data, and increase the value of samples collected in the expensive drilling process," he says.

The system will make use of algorithms and software to reliably fuse data to identify rock types and features — called "rock fingerprinting."

"When you combine the innovative data collection mechanisms Boart Longyear have developed at the drill site, then enable the scientists from the University of Adelaide to design, develop, and train complex algorithms and fuse this all together in a Cloud environment which can run in real-time — you get significant gains in efficiency, insight, and commercial application, never seen before," says SRA Information Technology Executive Manager for Sales and Marketing, Tim Chopping.

"It will assist both day to day and long-term mine planning. We believe this novel technology will become industry standard."


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