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AI needed to unlock treasure trove of mining data


Artificial intelligence was a vital tool to transform the tsunami of data in modern mining operations into ore body knowledge that would enable resource companies to make better downstream decisions, IMDEX Chief Geoscientist has told the World Mining Congress in Brisbane.

The AI-provided analysis and visualisation were the “last pieces of the puzzle”.

Chairing a session on AI and rapid resource modelling, and in a separate presentation, Dr Lawie said the Internet of Geosensing – the network of cloud-connected tools and sensors gathering information across the mining operation – delivered a treasure trove of data, “but the last thing you can do with a mine is generate a lot of raw data because no-one has time to look at it”.

“This is where AI comes in,” he said. “If we go in with an Internet of Geosensing approach and start collecting data, we need to use AI to turn it into information which is directly usable by the mining operation in virtually real time.

“If you can’t do that no-one will use the data; it’s unreasonable to expect people to.”

But he said there were barriers to AI being used successfully, because of the lack of training data.

“If we are going to get this data and turn it into a spatial prediction we need to know what it is we are trying to predict and we need to know how to train the model to do the predictions so we need the mines to give us the measured outcomes we are trying to predict with this data,” Dr Lawie said.

The ore body knowledge, delivered in real time upstream of the mining process, was an asset from which value could be realised but, for several reasons, a lot of companies stopped at that point without realising the value.

“Many companies think acquiring the ore body knowledge is the purpose,” Dr Lawie said. “It doesn’t get communicated in a useful way, the tools for realising the value are inadequate, there’s a lack of know-how or willingness to apply it within a change-management process.

“The value needs to be articulated financially.”

Speaking ahead of the presentation, Dr Lawie said more mining companies were coming to the realisation that they needed either better ore body knowledge or a better understanding of the data already obtained.

“There are a lot of mining operations around the world now who are encountering more problematic ores at greater depths, lower grades, more variability than they are used to and its affecting their ability to maintain profit margins,” he said.

“A lot of the higher-grade deposits of ore bodies have been mined out. In times of lower prices, mining companies will cherry pick the highest grades so they can still be profitable but then they are left with lower grades and a mine that is compromised.

“They need ore body knowledge to get at these lower-grade materials and get them out at a good profit.

“It’s a theme that’s running through the industry – but they don’t have the data, they’ve never measured it.”

IMDEX BLAST DOGTM is a commodity agnostic blast hole sensing and physical measurement technology that provides near real-time ore body knowledge and is semi-autonomously deployed for logging material properties and blast hole characteristics at high spatial density across the bench and mine.

It delivers unrivalled pre-blast rock knowledge and a 3D view into the bench which can facilitate improved blast designs and optimise explosive costs.

It also offers ESG benefits through the potential for precision mining and optimisation of downstream processes such as grinding, blending, and stockpiling.