Rapid shifts in technology are paving the way for developing innovative and potentially revolutionary imaging technologies that can reduce risks in deep earth exploration, writes JONATHAN LAW

Article from resourceful: Issue 11

LEADERS COMMENT

There can be no doubt that innovation is vital to the future of the Australian economy, and our minerals and mining sector is a cornerstone of that future. Industry must take greater risks on technology to be rewarded with future growth.

Jonathan Law, Director of CSIRO Mineral Resources

Jonathan Law, Director of CSIRO Mineral Resources

CSIRO is in a unique position to help industry take this needed leap. We invest in new science that transforms the way we do things for the benefit of our customers.

Recently announced in line with CSIRO’s Strategy 2020, we are investing in new breakthrough science which has higher technical risk but carries with it the potential to help reinvent or create new industries for Australia.

Six new science investments were launched this year and the minerals and mining industry was one of the big winners. CSIRO’s new Deep Earth Imaging Future Science Platform will tackle the challenge of enhancing exploration for mineral, energy and water resources by transforming the way we search and map the subsurface.

The platform’s goal is to develop technologies to underpin a new wave of resource discoveries, both on and off shore.

Exploration through cover is widely recognised as a key national challenge in enabling Australia to maintain its resource production and realise the growth opportunities provided by our national endowment.

At the orebody scale, better imaging techniques will have a major impact on the resource definition and production domain.

Mapping the deep earth has long been a key part of any exploration program, but rapid shifts in technology bring new opportunities. New sensors, hardware and software combined with machine learning and sophisticated data analytics have opened up a new frontier – tackling the challenge of deep earth imaging will require a fresh approach.

This edition of resourceful highlights some of the key components that will give the platform its best chance of success with applications in minerals, oil and gas, groundwater, and engineering applications, including geosequestration, geothermal power, waste storage and many others.

Deep Earth Imaging will be multi-disciplinary and experimental, involving teams of researchers drawn from around the world and integrating data and digital technology. Collaboration with local and international partners is key for both researchers and industry who will provide test data and opportunities for demonstration through case studies.

New science will reduce exploration risk. The initial focus of Deep Earth Imaging will be Australia’s leadership in technology development, with a longer term goal of commercial technologies for global deployment.

I hope the next few years will see an imaging revolution not unlike the rapid shift in cheap digital camera resolution. When linked to the right processing engines, the future of Deep Earth Imaging is exciting and positioned to drive major changes, beginning with exploration and continuing through the resources value chain.

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