The ongoing digitalization of mineral information
With about 24,000 visitors, over 1,000 exhibitors and 3,800 investors the PDAC (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada) is the meeting place for people connected with mineral exploration.
For me, it was a first-class opportunity to get a feel for not only the status of the competitive landscape for core scanning but also to learn how the digitalization process in the mining industry, related to mineral information in particular, is progressing.
Early days in digitalization
There are currently several supporting areas developing fast to enable connectivity and digital workflows, such as the progression of 5G and the Internet of Things movement. However, I would suggest that digitalization in the mining industry is still in its infancy.
Digital mining has been with us for over half a century, and the mining sector has embraced the introduction of new technologies, such as plant control systems, GPS technologies, mobile broadband and automated haulage. That aside, the adoption or transformation rate is surprisingly slow compared to other industries given the perceived opportunity and value of going digital.
"The digital disconnect in the mining and metals sector is the gap between the potential from digital transformation and the poor track record of successful implementations. Addressing the digital disconnect will be critical to succeeding in the rapidly changing digital world."
Report | The digital disconnect: problem or pathway?
A conservative industry
In fact, the industry is still very much in a stage of digitization. In areas like core logging and lab analysis, the work is still analog to a large extent. It is a process, and several areas need to progress to a minimum level before we see any real change.
Thus far, hyperspectral scanning and RGB imagery of drill cores seem to have caught a foothold in the market, with players like Corescan, TerraCore and Specim drawing market traction. With geochemistry it is a different story. Traditional XRF scanning solutions are struggling with getting acceptance for surface measurement, deemed only to provide indicative results. Secondly, there is always the question of JORC compliance, which so far has been to the advantage of the labs. However, this may be about to change.
New digital tools
The Orexplore GeoCore X10 can see through the surface and do an in-depth analysis of the core. The method is yet to be “JORC approved” but has the advantage of analyzing kilos of the sample rather than a few grams. If the rock is homogenous, a small sample may be representative, but for an inhomogeneous case, it is an entirely different story. To get a correct measurement a volume analysis is required, i.e. a partial analysis can introduce a significant sampling error.
Drowning in data
With growing availability of data the challenge of how to handle an overflow of information is apparent. Too much data can quickly become noise rather than useful support for decisionmaking because the recipient does not have the time to process the data him- or herself. Exhibitors like Acquire, GeoSoft, and Imago are examples of firms trying to remedy this by integrating data from different sources and creating a sort of data hub for information, in an attempt to offer a single point of access to or integration of information, data handling and interpretation. In a world of data saturation, the challenge becomes making data accessible, relevant and actionable. The quest for us software developers it to figure out how to extract the interpretations mining professionals require to make their job easier and more efficient. The goal must be to allow freedom to explore rather than spending valuable time making sense of data.
Working together for efficiency
It was encouraging to hear from several of the visitors to our booth that Orexplore is bringing something new to the market. Although packaged in different ways, traditional XRF type solutions, have in the past decades been pretty much the same. Is it finally time for a change? Time will tell. My vision is that gaining access to fast, accurate and exceptional breadth of mineral data, available in your virtual core farm library wherever you are, will eventually change the process of exploration. This goal might be achieved by writing proprietary software, but a safer bet is that software suppliers need to team up to consolidate data and workflows, and jointly come up with a best practice for future mineral exploration.
Kevin Rebenius, CEO