Exploring an innovation imperative

EXPLORATION is one area of mining crying out for innovation, however, it appears it is just not getting it quickly enough.
Exploring an innovation imperative Exploring an innovation imperative Exploring an innovation imperative Exploring an innovation imperative Exploring an innovation imperative

Without exploration there are no new mines.

Lou Caruana

Innovation in areas such as mine site productivity, maintenance, and communications can often be readily adapted from the experience in other sectors such as manufacturing. However, minerals exploration technology is seen by some as a unique to mining.

This feeling of uniqueness can breed a resistance to change and a lack of openness to new ideas and innovation, which has been slowing the growth of exploration and mining for years.    

VCI’s third biennial survey of more than 800 global mining leaders, Innovation: State of Play, reveals the impact of a rapidly changing international marketplace and its effect on innovation in the mining industry.

Mining companies claim innovation is critical to their survival in the long term, with 62% of the survey group agreeing with this in 2017, compared to 41% in 2015 and 37% in 2013.  

A shift in industry culture as well as new skills are required to leverage technological advancement, the survey found, however, resistance to change remains a barrier despite the potential benefits that will come with strategic use of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years.

The survey found change management issues headed the list of why implementation of new innovations failed.  

“Many lead operators hate automation,” one respondent told the survey. “They struggle to imagine a world where they are not leading large groups of people.”

Ironically, it is this technology and innovation that could deliver greater certainty to mining projects, especially in the high risk exploration and orebody proving-up phase.   

In its report, Mining Innovation: Key Mining Industry Challenges, METSignited identified improving exploration for deep and remotely located minerals and a deeper, continuously up-to-date, understanding of the resource base as two possible areas where innovation and technology could make a big difference. 

An Australian technology developed by CSIRO that provides new knowledge on orebodies and associated alteration rapidly and cost-effectively could soon benefit the global mining industry, thanks to a commercialisation deal that will open doors to international markets.

CSIRO’s advanced mineral analysis and logging technology – HyLogger – has been licensed to Australian company Corescan, which operates a network of hyperspectral mineralogy labs across Australia, South East Asia, Canada, the US, Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina.

HyLogger uses the spectra of reflected light from mineral surfaces to interpret the mineralogy of the material. It is far more reliable for systematic mineral identification than visual techniques used in most drilling programs.

It also provides near real time analysis so costs and delays associated with laboratory analysis are greatly reduced.

CSIRO research director Dr Rob Hough said commercialising the technology with Corescan opened the way for the industry to truly take advantage of hyperspectral analysis of drill materials for exploration and mining and further reinforces Australia’s place as a global leader in the provision of mineral exploration and mining technology.

“Through our partnership with the Australian state geological surveys, the National Virtual Core Library and AuScope, hyperspectral data is now routinely acquired at government core repositories and is generating new knowledge on mineral systems,” Hough said.