Every geologist and geoscientist in Australia knows that the National Virtual Core Library (NVCL) holds a wealth of information.
With more than one million metres of drill core data in the library, the NVCL is the world’s largest mineralogical database. And it is free for anyone to access.
A new CSIRO-developed tool called MyLogger has been designed to help harness the power of this enormous data bank.
Funded through the MinEx Cooperative Research Centre, MyLogger is an automated workflow that can help geologists interpret hyperspectral data from drill cores held in the NVCL.
Researchers hope this prototype technology will help overcome some of the requirement for specialist knowledge to interpret datasets and will improve access to the information contained in the library.
Dr Jess Stromberg, a spectral geology expert and Senior Research Scientist in the CSIRO Mineral Resources Discovery Program says the tool was designed with many different users in mind.
“Our hope is that this tool will be helpful to both researchers and the minerals industry,” says Jess.
“It provides an easy way for someone who is not an expert in hyperspectral methods – even an undergraduate student, for example – to take a quick look at many different drill cores and decide which ones may be worth investigating in more detail.”
What is hyperspectral data?
Hyperspectral imaging, like other spectral imaging, collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.
Hyperspectral data from the AuScope-supported NVCL is captured using the CSIRO-developed HyLogger-3 system.
This automated line scanner uses continuous visible and infrared spectroscopy and digital imaging to examine cores, samples and cuttings.
Reflected light from the samples is broken into hundreds of different wavelengths by several spectrometers. This allows recognition of unique spectral signatures for each mineral. It enables geologists to identify the rock type.
Although the automated HyLogger-3 system is a vast improvement on the earlier manual process, which required geologists to spend many hours studying, interpreting and logging drill core samples, the resulting datasets still require specialist expertise to interpret.
“Hyperspectral data is now pretty commonly collected across the minerals industry, but hyperspectral mineralogy isn’t taught as a standard part of the geoscience curriculum, so spectral data isn’t yet a core subject,” explains Jess.
“It still requires quite a bit of domain-specific expertise to work with that data, which means it isn’t accessible to everyone.
“The idea with MyLogger was to use automated processing and make the information accessible to every geologist in a way that’s going to feel intuitive and easy to understand and can help them generate their geological logs.”
What is MyLogger and how does it work?
TSG provides researchers and exploration geologists with a software tool that can consistently analyse and interpret datasets from different spectrometers.
Data Mosaic, developed by CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Dr June Hill, uses numerical data to determine the boundary between rock types at multiple scales.
MyLogger integrates the two approaches to provide a geology log, which exploration and mining geologists are more familiar with interpreting.
“Geological logs are really the backbone of the minerals industry,” notes Jess.
“Every drill hole gets a rock type log, usually done manually by a geologist, which makes it a subjective and time-consuming process.
“MyLogger has been developed to quickly and objectively use the spectral data to extract a kind of first pass geological log that will help you understand what the rock types in your drill core are.”
How will MyLogger help researchers and industry?
As we undergo a rapid energy transition, global demand for critical minerals is projected to increase dramatically. And many of those mineral deposits are in Australia.
It’s an exciting opportunity for the resources sector. But it’s going to require the development of technology that makes the exploration process faster and more efficient.
At present, the Australian mineral exploration industry spends up to half a billion dollars drilling rock core samples to locate economically viable resources.
Improving access to existing data through tools like MyLogger could be key.
“There are so many drill cores in NVCL, and a lot of those are historic cores that were drilled a long time ago,” says Jess.
“There might not be a geological log at all for many of those older cores. If you’re an explorer looking for critical minerals, you’ll want to extract as much information as possible from region you're looking in without having to drill holes in the ground first.
“MyLogger allows someone who's not an expert in spectral mineralogy to look at those historic drill cores and get a geological understanding of what's there.
“That can inform decision making and how or whether you might proceed in a certain area.”
Another key set of stakeholders that Jess believes will benefit from MyLogger are State and Territory Geological Surveys.
Most are already using the HyLogger-3 system to collect data.
“The Geological Surveys operating HyLoggers all have one or two spectral experts,” says Jess.
“The MyLogger app opens up those datasets and drill cores to the broader group of geologists within the Geological Survey, and helps inform their research.”
What next for MyLogger?
MyLogger is now up and running online and freely available for use by anyone who is interested.
According to Jess, there is potential for some further development to the tool in future, including improvements to the classification systems, and upscaling to allow analysis of more than one drill hole at a time.
However, feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive to date, and a recent online workshop for industry and community stakeholders attracted almost 100 participants.
“I’m so excited about seeing MyLogger become more widely used,” says Jess.
“There’s a huge amount of data in the NVCL but it’s an underutilised resource because of that extra knowledge required to work with it.
“MyLogger helps break that barrier down. It makes the data more accessible to all geologists and allows us to realise the full potential of this amazing database we are so lucky to have.”
MyLogger is powered by CSIRO EASI technology.