Future of Minerals Exploration
During the 1950’s to 1980’s the minerals exploration industry was very successful resulting in an impressive number of discoveries. However, several studies during the past 30 years indicate that for every 500–1000 mineral showings tested, one mineral deposit with suf cient value to mine is discovered. Consequently, while there have been signi cant discoveries since 1990, the discovery rate (measured in dollar value per year) has fallen.
Data source: MEG’s Corporate Exploration Strategie
The key reasons for a gradual increase in exploration expenditures are:
Minerals Exploration Industry Response to Challenges – What we are seeing
The increasing requirement to “go deeper” is comparable to issues faced by the oil and gas industry around 10-15 years ago. To counter similar challenges, energy companies made large investments in new technologies and were forced to re-think their approach to information management and tools. Similarly, for minerals exploration, advanced computer interpretations and innovative 3D / 4D modeling are now required.
While mineral exploration has embraced advances in modeling and analytical tools, maturity in the management of information and knowledge at an enterprise level is only now being recognized as critical to success within the minerals exploration industry. Further, it is increasingly being acknowledged that much of the information from previous years (decades) of exploration is of adequate information governance and management.
Over time, the way organizations have stored has changed meaning and it cannot be re-us
Significant investment in previous exploration activity has essentially been lost or wasted. In addition to the identified causes of cost increases, the impact of the GFC has meant that finance available for exploration has contracted and the number of juniors exploring is reducing. As a consequence of the rising costs of exploration and associated risks, many of the larger mining houses and exploration organizations are becoming more global and increasingly more cautious regarding exploration activity. Organizations are now demanding more and “better” use of available information including value from existing data and the way market information is accessed and utilized.
This has in turn given rise to issues of control and management of complexity. In response, many organizations have recognized the increasing need to centralize and more formally manage decisions around standards and tools.
Future Opportunities and Complexities
Dramatic advances in materials, technologies, communications and processing power over the last 10 – 15 years have added both significant complexity and opportunity to exploration:-
The IT Response
The exploration demand to “go deeper” means that IT must be able to ensure more processing power, with reliable access to more trustworthy information when and where it is needed. While similar objectives have always existed, a new level of maturity and approach along with the ability to exploit new technologies means that this is now a reality. The following steps and possible solutions should be considered:-
Standards & Processes
All exploration relies on Earth sciences (geology, geophysics etc.). Consequently, all exploration and ongoing mine planning relies on access to better and more reliable information. To meet increasing pressures, exploration IT Directors and CIOs must now face the dif cult tasks of adopting and implementing strong data management disciplines into their organizations. Additionally, they are expected to identify ways to exploit new technologies and tools to signi cantly improve the chances of discovery.