Drilling holes is the universally accepted means to find ore bodies, so much so that some have nicknamed the drill a ‘truth machine’. Whatever the stage of exploration, the drilling life cycle is a critical element of the decision making process. The interpretation of data generated from drill samples helps us validate or update an ore body model and ultimately make a decision on how to proceed…often drilling another hole!
Historically this life cycle of obtaining and interpreting accurate data has been an inefficient and time consuming process and in Michelle Carey’s view – IMDEX’s Global Manager for Integrated Solutions – this is a key driver behind adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) or Industry 4.0 to help improve the quality of data being delivered to geoscientists and in turn guide real-time decision making. “There are a lot of facets driving the digital imperative within global minerals exploration; however, a big one is supplying geologists with information in a timely manner to allow them to make good decisions.
“Geologists routinely have to make a decision to keep drilling or stop holes – if they get it wrong money is wasted or worse, a major discovery is missed. In the past these vital decisions had to be made solely by looking at the rock, now sensors can provide data in real-time to allow decision makers anywhere in the world to make that call.”
The minerals exploration industry, however, has not been swift in its adoption of these technologies – hampered by human nature’s resistance to change, access to communications in remote areas and the need for greater collaboration between multiple sensor suppliers, database providers and interpretative software providers in order to give geologists the full end-to-end solution.
Fortunately these hurdles appear to be getting smaller and the IoT within the minerals exploration industry is gaining acceptance and momentum. In most other facets of our lives we have become accustomed to instant forms of communication or accessing information – so it is only a matter of time before waiting days or weeks for accurate geological data feels like ‘snail mail’ versus Instant Messaging!
James Cleverley, IMDEX’s Global Product Manager – Geosciences, says the connected digital world is about providing accurate information to make decisions. It is the connection of smart systems and the automation of workflows, in near real-time to make an impact on productivity and the way we work. “Drilling is not about the act of making a hole alone, we drill to take a sample. We sample to make a measurement. This data is turned into the information that supports a decision about the geological model – the decision about what to do next.”
Mining equipment, technology and services (METS) company, IMDEX, bases its value proposition on improving workflows and providing real-time subsurface intelligence solutions for its global clients. It provides solutions, which integrate its leading AMC and REFLEX
brands, including: Downhole Navigation
; Structural Geology
; In-Field Geoanalysis
; Driller Operable Geophysics
; and Drilling Optimisation
For example, IMDEX’s Infield Geoanalysis Solution allows samples to be prepared rapidly in the field and a measurement to be made in near real-time that provide quality, consistent data for decision making. Data is retrieved from the REFLEX XRF™
in a structured way for further processing and/or storage without multi-handling of the dataset. Results may be accessed through IMDEXHUB-IQ™
from any internet connection for validation in QAQC workflows and advanced modelling in software platforms such as IMDEX ioGAS™
and SEEQUENT’s Leapfrog Geo.
Similarly IMDEX’s Structural Geology solution is an integrated end-to-end solution. It enables resource companies to benefit from real-time, secure access to verified structural data directly from the field, improving operational efficiencies and reducing risk from manual intervention.
Carey added: “IMDEX’s STRUCTURAL-IQ™ solution also provides the quality of your REFELX ACT-IQ™ data in real-time, so you know the reliability of the orientation line your structural data collection relies on. “Having the IMDEXHUB-IQ™ central to the overall solution also saves valuable time allowing easy combination of survey data from REFLEX survey tools and structural data from the REFLEX IQ-LOGGER™. Advanced interpretation and analysis can then be conducted on all your valuable structural data by using the Stereonet functionality in the IMDEX ioGAS™ software.”
The individual components of IMDEX’s solutions also provide standalone productivity benefits for clients. A recent case study entitled REFLEX IQ-LOGGER™ Success in Multiple Sites
summarises how an Australian exploration company in Mongolia improved the integrity of the structural model for its project and significantly improved its workflows.
The company was encountering variable core quality and data with a significant number of holes that were either not orientated or drilled close to vertical. A large number of these holes were sub-parallel and had not been adequately classified previously. Geologist Nick Oliver from HCOV Global began utilising the REFLEX IQ-LOGGER™ and the structural measurements were seamlessly integrated with IMDEX ioGAS™ which enabled a robust fault classification to be created in real-time. “The role of the REFLEX IQ-LOGGER™ in the total workflow was crucial”,
So how will Industry 4.0 and the technologies it brings impact on the way we explore in the future?
Timely and accurate information appears to be a given, however, the role of the geoscientist will also evolve from data collector to data interpreter.
Commenting on future practices and processes, IMDEX’s Global Manager for Integrated Solutions, Carey, said: “It is almost heresy to say this, however, the idea of a geologist logging a rock using visual observations may well die out. Modern sensors and analytics will allow this to be replaced by objective, repeatable classifications. Of course the geologists still have an important role making use of this information, but their role as data collectors will decrease.”
Cleverley added: “As a geoscientist running a drilling program you will be up and running with your own on-site lab, producing consistent and quality samples, managing the analysis and quality control and having confidence the data you are viewing is accurate – benefiting from a coherent workflow from the sample preparation to data analysis, all driven by a rapid near real-time connected system. “Such a system will also give geoscientists more time to act on decisions, removing the burden of administration including data management, controlling data flow and quality assurance processes. Indeed, the future of graduate geoscientists will expand from fundamental geological knowledge to a stronger framework of numeracy and pure science.
To learn more about the benefits of real-time data or IMDEX Solution sets, watch the video below: