A resources sector attempting to traverse the challenging landscape from exploration to production is increasingly faced with mining data every bit as critical as the minerals being targeted.

Amid geopolitical tensions, rising ESG demands and the gap between price forecasts and market reality, the ability to make the right decision at the right time is paramount.

With a fundamental need for resource companies to replace diminishing reserves – and new discoveries likely to be under cover, at depth and more complex in structure – the industry faces challenges on multiple fronts.

Global consultants Deloitte, in its Tracking the Trends 2024 report, said the mining and metals industry finds itself at the centre of a complex matrix of challenges and opportunities, expectations, and demands.

Capturing, analysing, and acting on data are themes running through its 10 trends of 2024.

Similarly, consultants EY in its 2024 assessment of risks and opportunities said business leaders anticipated a surge of investment in data and technology, driven by demand across the business for digital solutions to reduce costs and improve productivity, safety and ESG outcomes.

Leading global mining-tech company IMDEX is at the centre of this transformation, delivering the tools to enable technology driven productivity that is pivotal to tackling the rising costs and the complex geology faced by the mining industry.

Increasingly, it sees the mining industry shifting from cost cutting to seeking productivity enhancements.

The company’s acquisition of Devico – experts in directional drilling – investments in drilling analytics software company Krux Analytics and geoscience image analysis experts Datarock, and commitment to Research and Development are combining to provide the technology and tools required by modern mining companies.

The aim is to enable mining and exploration companies to safely find, define, and mine ore bodies with precision and at speed. 

Deloitte in its trends report highlights exploration, framing it as “going back to grass roots – nourishing growth through investments in exploration”.

“The past decade has seen a shift away from grassroots exploration toward ‘safer’ brownfield sites in established jurisdictions,” the report said.

“This stems in part from the increasing difficulty and cost of finding quality deposits, which, in turn, has made it tougher for investors to fund riskier early-stage exploration.”

IMDEX Chief Executive Officer Paul House said major resource companies were expanding their exploration budgets to ensure they could meet projected demand for key metals and minerals.

“There is a critical imperative for resource companies to replenish diminishing reserves,” he said. “New discoveries are likely to be deeper with greater orebody complexity that will require larger drilling campaigns, new technology solutions and more complex processing.”

IMDEX Chief of Strategy Michelle Carey welcomed Deloitte’s emphasis on exploration.

“If you want to find a deposit there is no alternative to drilling a hole – so developing, designing and improving the best tools available to produce the most accurate drilling results, and then delivering that in a way the data can be assessed quickly is central to our approach to maximising exploration success,” Dr Carey said.

“The mining sector is continuing to move through a technological revolution, with every step in the value chain from exploration to production being exposed to new and innovative solutions powered by cloud-connected devices to enable critical decisions to be made sooner and faster to both maximise the probability of exploration success and reduce the time taken to properly delineate orebodies so they can be mined.

“Our sensors originate critical data on the four elements of rock knowledge – location, chemistry, mineralogy and texture and our geoscience analytical software enrich data and enable real-time decisions to be made further upstream.”

Deloitte’s data theme continues with bringing generative AI into mining and metals (Trend 9) and unlocking new value in existing assets (Trend 8).

IMDEX sees this as delivering improved ore body knowledge at every stage, from finding the ore body, to delineating and then optimising how to mine it.

It is involved in a two-year study with the Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU) and the Bradshaw Research Institute for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) at the University of British Columbia, and Ideon Technologies, to determine a method to quantify the value of ore body knowledge.

Unlocking new value in existing assets is reliant on ore body knowledge, with IMDEX BLAST DOG offering unparalleled insights.

IMDEX BLAST DOG is a commodity agnostic blast hole sensing and physical measurement technology that will provide near real-time blast hole physicals and orebody knowledge. 

Early use cases for the technology have focused on defining material property boundaries leading to better blasting and processing outcomes across iron ore, coal, and porphyry copper.

Mr House said the combined insights from improved ore body knowledge enabled access to underutilised or stranded asset ore bodies – helping to address anticipated supply gaps for minerals critical for decarbonisation and net-zero targets.

“The challenge around ore body knowledge is not should we do it, it’s more how to do it and then deciding what to do with the information to take advantage of it,” he said.

Deloitte also highlighted the role of technology in reshaping the workforce and addressing a skills shortage (Trend 7).

Dr Carey said the resource sector should accept that the skills shortage was permanent. “Geoscientists’ work will change, with a greater emphasis on analysis. Technology will be used increasingly for the repetitive but nevertheless important jobs such as core logging, leaving the geoscientists to spend more time on analysis,” she said.

“Datarock is a good example. Its uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to pull geological information from core images. augmenting core logging, especially in areas like geotechnical logging and vein and specific mineral identification.”

By Admin