Engineering & Mining Journal

FEB 2019

Engineering and Mining Journal - Whether the market is copper, gold, nickel, iron ore, lead/zinc, PGM, diamonds or other commodities, E&MJ takes the lead in projecting trends, following development and reporting on the most efficient operating pr

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EXPLORATION FEBRUARY 2019 • E&MJ 29 visualization should enable exploration teams and managers to make quicker, better-informed decisions. If they can meet the challenge of turning a rising tide of available data into a pool of useful in- formation, free from subjective influences and in a standardized format. There is a rapidly expanding universe of hardware, software, and data-service tools and re- sources designed to help companies solve this many-faceted problem. Solutions range from systems and software that allow exploration teams to bypass man- ual-entry-on-forms and eliminate paper maps and documents altogether, to Arti- ficial Intelligence (AI) technologies that not only can be trained to read, digest and make recommendations from myriad data sources but also can go back in time, if necessary, to reinterpret historical data and reports in accordance with more re- cent developments and insights. Customary practice in most explo- ration programs involves initial data collection — compiling pertinent infor- mation from existing records or manual- ly by field studies, or both, followed by mapping at various levels of detail. From an information technology perspective, a paper-based approach to this process is unacceptably inefficient, and improve- ments based on eliminating paper forms and maps have been low-hanging fruit for IT companies, which have been quick to develop solutions more in line with cor- porate digitization initiatives and objec- tives. To illustrate the progress made in this area, Mark Gabbitus, product strate- gy manager for software developer Micro- mine, presented a paper at the inaugural Australian Geoscience Council Conven- tion (AGCC) held last year in Adelaide that described his company's strategy for optimizing the process using connected devices and edge computing. Gabbitus said Micromine's focus on exploration began in the early 2000s with the release of Field Marshal, a field data capture product designed to replace pa- per log sheets, and has continued into the present with recent releases of Geobank Mobile, which facilitates integration with data capture devices such as magnet- ic susceptibility readers, portable XRFs and geotechnical measurement devices. These devices, according to Gabbitus, are often connected to a service or database in the cloud, but "someone, somewhere still needs to merge it into the master database at some point." Issues also can arise when there is no network connectiv- ity, a common issue on the edge. "If an exploration geologist can col- lect, validate and access their data in a single platform, while they are in the field, real-time insights can be drawn, en- abling smarter decisions at the rig," he said. "Having this data available would then allow a geologist to make decisions in the field, to end a hole early or jus- tify extending a hole beyond its planned depth. This adds immediate value, either by reducing planned drilling costs or pre- venting costly re-drills later." The computing power available to field personnel in a ruggedized format has im- proved to the point where not only can a geologist run Geobank Mobile, said Gab- bitus, but also can run Micromine, the company's flagship modular exploration and mine design suite, on a tablet. Join the SRK.IS Maps have always been essential in the exploration process, likely starting with crude "X marks the spot" diagrams used by prospectors in past centuries and pro- gressing to the detailed prospect maps produced by exploration teams today. But, as Jason Beltran, a senior GIS consultant for SRK Australia, pointed out in a recent exploration newsletter, traditional paper maps are static, limited to the size of the paper on which they are printed, and dif- ficult to read when they contain dense de- tail. The solution: either split a map into separate sheets or remove some of the fea- tures, which lessens the map's usefulness. Now, in a digitally connected world, smart devices can be used for collecting and sharing mapping data, enabling geolo- gists to produce accurate digital maps col- laboratively and more quickly, and without the limitations of size and scale. SRK has leveraged a customized in-house mapping portal using ArcGIS technology initially de- veloped by ESRI using IS for "information system," it's called SRK.IS (pronounced "circus"). SRK.IS works with Web apps that are customized for a particular client or project. Essentially, SRK.IS integrates digital data collection in the field with a centralized database, making it possible to access maps and other geographical infor- mation in real time and viewed by a variety of users simultaneously. The advantage of SRK.IS, said Beltran, is that it provides different connection op- tions, whether the data is collected in the field or viewed and/or edited in a client's office. Using ESRI's ArcMap or ArcPro, the data is transferred to maps in the SRK.IS Web app and published as a map service to SRK.IS, so users can interact with the map service. The level of accessibility is subject to the map service requirements and user permission settings. For collecting data, SRK.IS connects to a dedicated ESRI application called Collector for ArcGIS, which works on An- droid, iOS and Windows mobile devices. Data are customized according to the re- quirements of the mapping task, and data pre-filling options can be activated to save time and reduce exposure to human error in data entry. Digital photos can be attached to a datapoint to automatically georeference the location of each photo. Users can download maps beforehand, so data can be collected in remote loca- tions with no internet or mobile connec- tion. Later, when internet connection is available, the offline data can be synced to SRK.IS and integrated with existing data. The data on SRK.IS is accessed via a portal, using a Web browser, or by a direct Web App URL. The Web browser interface works like the Google Earth application by toggling between different map layer options, users can control the geospatial information to view. Office-based ArcGIS administrators can log in to the SRK.IS portal to view mapping progress in real time. The data can be edited and synced back to the SRK.IS user in the field, re- ducing any delay from waiting until the map is produced before processing any edits and enabling faster map creation than previously possible. Portable Productivity The latest generation of handheld or transportable XRF analyzers, which allow quick identification of minerals on-site, work well with digital data-capture solu- tions that eliminate paper-based forms and documentation and provide quick information turnaround. These include units such as Malvern Panalytical's ASD Terraspec Halo, Spectral Evolution's or- eXpress and SR-6500, Bruker's S1 Titan and Thermal Fisher Scientific's line of Niton analyzers. X-ray fluorescence, or XRF, is a process whereby electrons are displaced from their atomic orbital posi- tions, releasing a burst of energy that is characteristic of a specific element. This

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