Digital drilling tools a ‘game-changer’ for mining exploration

In Exploration, Featured, Infrastructure & Operations, Latest News

Digital drilling tools hailed as a “game-changer” for the mining industry are being developed under a new collaboration between a leading Australian mining services company, a university and a specialist software firm.

The Australian Government has provided a AU$2.1 million grant to the three-year project being undertaken by the University of Adelaide, drilling giant Boart Longyear and South Australian specialist software company SRA Information Technology.

A further $2.4 million of cash and in-kind support is being invested into the project by its three partners.

The new tools will incorporate multisensory core scanners and sensors as well as data fusion and machine learning to enable near real-time geological and structural data collection. The new tech will allow automated decision-making at exploration and mining sites globally.

Director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources Professor Stephen Grano said the collaboration between researchers and industry would lead to improved economic viability for mining and exploration companies.

“This project brings together Boart Longyear’s global expertise in geological data services, drilling services and equipment and industry knowledge, with SRA software and technical architecture know-how, and the University of Adelaide’s leading research in computer vision, machine learning, geology and mineralogy,” he said.

Boart Longyear Senior Manager, Technology Development and Integration Peter Kanck said many strategic exploration decisions were currently made based on incomplete or poorly correlated information.

“Exploration and mining companies risk a great deal of money on drilling without maximising the information they could get from each drilled hole,” he said.

“Data and core analysis is a time-consuming, expensive process with results often not available for weeks or months and the data is in multiple formats that isn’t easily integrated for optimum outputs.

“This project will develop a commercial product that will significantly speed up data collection, lower the costs of collecting and analysing data and increase the value of samples collected in the expensive drilling process.”

The system will make use of algorithms and software to reliably fuse data to identify rock types and features – called “rock fingerprinting”.

SRA Information Technology Executive Manager for Sales and Marketing Tim Chopping said the technology would assist both day-to-day and long-term mine planning.

He said that combining the innovative data collection mechanisms developed at the drill site by Boart Longyear with the University of Adelaide’s machine learning while running it all in the Cloud in real-time provides significant efficiency gains never seen before.

“We believe this novel technology will become industry standard,” Chopping said.

South Australia is a globally important producer of copper, uranium and zircon.

It is also home to one of the world’s most advanced drill core reference libraries – the $32.2 million South Australia Drill Core Reference Library in Adelaide – which holds 7.5 million metres of drill core samples from across South Australia.

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