Article from resourceful: Issue 11
As a company providing high-level consulting services to the global mineral exploration industry, we utilise concepts and data put into the public domain by CSIRO.
Deep Earth Imaging is about producing enabling technologies for the industry by better integrating and making sense of geoscientific data.
Ultimately, it will help the industry if that research can be distilled into providing practical imaging software that can be applied to datasets.
CSIRO is using its skills in big data and access to super computers to develop the algorithms that will integrate datasets and deliver a seamless product.
Its goal will be to integrate various 3D datasets to provide a product that “looks like geology” and therefore can be readily applied to target new deposits.
The potential impact of being able to do this is demonstrated by an earlier imaging breakthrough in the late 1980s, which was one of the most significant in exploration geoscience in the past 50 years.
This was research conducted by AMIRA, which applied image processing to potential field. All of a sudden we had magnetic maps that looked like geology and helped us see beneath the shallow cover. This led to many new discoveries and provided the basis for the pre-competitive geoscience data collection revolution.
Now, we’re talking about the next level of imaging. We’ve recognised that significant orebodies are not going to be found sticking out of the surface.
I think that’s true of Africa, South America or anywhere else in the world, it’s just that we have been in this space longer in Australia and have long recognised that seeing through the earth’s cover is our big opportunity and challenge.
This reflects the strategic maturity of our industry. One of the things we’ve done well in this country is to organise the triumvirate of the industry, government instrumentalities and the academic sector to focus on the problem in a coherent way, which is the envy of other countries like Canada.
This problem of seeing through cover is totally generic, and if Deep Earth Imaging solves this problem, it will have a positive impact on discovery in Australia and globally.
Our advantage in Australia is that we’re able to combine our capability of collecting, analysing and utilising data with the very significant investment (amounting to billions over the years) we make in pre-competitive data.
There is no such thing as a silver bullet in our industry but if Deep Earth Imaging is successful in using available data to develop software that enables us to produce relatively high confidence geological models or maps of these concealed areas, it will help our industry be more effective, capable and competitive.
However, collaboration is vital. Deep Earth Imaging needs to get feedback from pragmatic users of the technology. Strong industry advice and links are also needed to make sure it’s appropriately focused, as are interfaces with the rest of the minerals value chain – the data providers at the beginning and the geological experts near the end of the process.
CSIRO must be externally focused in this research, openly seek input from a wide range of sources and actively engage with the various centres of innovation such as our universities.