Industry Q&A: Increasing Visualisation in Mineral Exploration
The utilisation of data and advanced technologies continues to transform the nature of modern mining, particularly in the exploration phase. Increasingly, miners and explorers have access to greater information about what is under the surface, creating a more accurate picture of the resource in the ground and allowing them to design the mine around this. Imdex Limited are world-leaders in subsurface intelligence solutions, and we caught up with their Managing Director, Bernie Ridgeway to discuss how innovation is key to the future of exploration.
1. With greater utilisation and availability of advanced technologies in the mining sector, how much more do we know about the resource in the ground than a decade ago? What further advancements do you believe will be made in this area?
The mining sector has traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies and the measurement of resources in the ground still typically relies on a lengthy process of drilling, grade control and assaying of blast hole chips or core.
The introduction of technologies like our digital core orientation, driller operable gamma logging and in-field geoanalysis instruments, have made this process cheaper and more efficient, however, there are still exciting opportunities to make an industry step change.
In the future, we will be able to measure the physical properties of rock for material classification, hardness, mineral content and, amongst other things, the presence or absence of deleterious trace elements at the time of drilling. Ultimately, these innovative technologies will allow mines to achieve outcomes such as optimised particle size distributions during blasting and precise materials tracking for strategic stock piling, both of which will improve throughput at the processing plant.
2. Drilling represents a major investment for a mining or exploration company, with poor decisions extremely costly. How can we use data to avoid this problem?
There are two key aspects to avoiding costly mistakes – obtaining quality data and the timeliness of intelligence gained from that data. For example, knowing exactly where samples came from is essential for accurate resource modelling, while knowing when to keep drilling or call the end of hole can dramatically enhance the efficiency of an operation or exploration program.
Our vision at Imdex is to be the leading provider of real-time subsurface intelligence solutions to the global mining industry. We develop solutions that improve the process of identifying and extracting what is below the earth’s surface so that drilling contractors and resource companies know where the resource is and what it is in real-time or near real-time.
Our award winning cloud-based IMDEXHUB-IQ sits at the heart of all of our solutions, offering real-time, secure access to data from the field. Resource companies are benefiting from this technology due to the rigorous and streamlined data validation functionality and built in QC at the time of data collection, ensuring that only data which can be transformed into valid, actionable information is transferred. Using this software also reduces the inherent risk of introducing manual data handling errors by streamlining the existing process and offering a secure chain of custody of their data.
3. How has Imdex created an organisational culture that fosters innovation? How important is it for everybody to buy-in to the innovation message?
Innovation is the cornerstone of our company, which has a long history of introducing innovative solutions to the global mining industry – some good examples include: our REFLEX Fotobor, which later became the Maxibor and played a key role in the connection of the Eurotunnel in December 1990; the REFLEX EZ-Shot, which was the first digital magnetic survey instrument for the minerals industry; the REFLEX ACT – the first digital core orientation tool; AMC’s award winning solids removal unit; ioGAS – the leading desktop software for exploratory data analysis, and our REFLEX HUB – the first use of cloud technologies for mining applications.
We are the innovators and confront difficult technical challenges in the development of world first technologies. This in itself assists us to attract the right talent as many people like to be challenged and this develops their skill sets. We like to go beyond commonly accepted boundaries, which makes Imdex an exciting place to work.
This history, together with our talented multi-disciplinary team and commitment to R&D throughout the cycles, makes innovation an integral part of our culture. It is one of our company values and the provision of leading technologies that enhance the productivity and efficiency of our clients operations remains a key point of difference for us.
4. It is widely recognised that collaboration is key to innovation, both internally and externally. How important has this been to Imdex in creating and refining your technologies over time?
Collaboration with clients, research organisations and other industry bodies like Austmine enhances our understanding of the challenges, emerging trends and opportunities within our sector.
Our involvement with Austmine includes participation in its working group – Understanding the Orebody Better – which focuses on the tracking of ore from mining through to the first stage of processing and having the granularity of data in near real-time to enable optimisation.
We work closely with the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC), CRC ORE and the CSIRO and their members, which include resource companies and other METS companies, to understand what the pain points are and what solution sets we need to provide clients.
Our current solution sets, which include the collaboration of AMC and REFLEX technologies, comprises: downhole navigation; drilling optimisation; in-field geoanalysis; driller operable geophysics; and structural geology.
We also collaborate with service providers to optimise the user experience for our clients. A recent example is our work with ARANZ Geo and AcQuire to ensure geological information is available in real-time or near real-time, in a format that supports critical decision making for exploration, mining and production.
In the future, we see further partnering with resource companies as we continue to develop products for the production phase of mining. It is exciting working with likeminded people who want to transform the mining industry by developing innovative world-class technologies.