From university-based exploration research to industrial application
Industry uptake of academic exploration and mining research is often slower than it should be. Academics must focus on innovation and education. Providing industry with the robust tools, documentation, and support required for day-to-day practical deployment of successful research outcomes can be a difficult gap to bridge.
We have developed an approach, with a successful track record, to this problem. Two recent examples, one from AI/ML and one from advanced geophysics, demonstrate its effectiveness. The technology foundation is Geoscience ANALYST, a free software platform providing general, multi-disciplinary geoscience data visualization. We use it to build relationships with researchers and industry; the common goal is deployment of R&D success.
The first example is the $13m NSERC-CMIC mineral exploration project, “Integrated Multi-Parameter Footprints of Ore Systems: The Next Generation of Ore Deposit Models.”
”"The development of Geoscience ANALYST means that the basics of data and model handling and 3D visualization do not have to be re-invented by researchers."John McGaugheyPresident - Mira Geoscience
An objective of the project was integration of multi-disciplinary data through AI/ML approaches alongside standard statistical techniques. A central challenge was making project data, models, methods, and results available in a useful way to stakeholders. The gap was bridged by creating a centrally-hosted database from where data, models, and documents can be accessed and visualized. Geoscience ANALYST provided a simple and cost-free mechanism to access both data and results directly from the database.
© 2019 NSERC-CMIC Exploration Footprints Network. All Rights Reserved
“We have developed a Python API to run open-source codes including ML/AI tools in Geoscience ANALYST, providing a path to directly implement R&D innovation in exploration programs,” says John McGaughey, President at Mira Geoscience. “Project-generated data are now residing at the Mining Observatory Data Control Centre at SNOLAB in Sudbury, who host the data repository, and will be made available to the public soon.”
The second example is from the field of geophysical R&D. From 2012 to 2019, the University of British Columbia Geophysical Inversion Facility (UBC-GIF) ran a successful project to create “GIFtools,” providing an extensive system of user interfaces to set up, execute, and interpret the results of the advanced geophysical forward modelling and inversion codes developed at UBC-GIF. We recently formed an industry consortium to create a commercially-supported version of GIFtools that could be run from Geoscience ANALYST. This has created a platform that other researchers may now use as a common set of tools for development of new geophysical methods.
“The development of Geoscience ANALYST means that the basics of data and model handling and 3D visualization do not have to be re-invented by researchers. From the examples presented in AI/ML and geophysics, to any computational geoscience and mining research, researchers can focus on innovation that industry can quickly apply.”
Open source codes are now being created across the geosciences. Where useful, we will provide the ability to use these codes from the Geoscience ANALYST interface, with the technical support, documentation, and training that will make them usable by industry as standard tools. The Python API allows open source codes to use the same robust 3D geoscience interface provided by Geoscience ANALYST.
John is the founder and President of Mira Geoscience. He has extensive mining industry experience focusing on quantitative, multi-disciplinary 3D and 4D interpretation for mineral exploration and geotechnical decision support. He currently leads our technology strategy and our geotechnical business. Prior to founding Mira Geoscience in 1999, he spent 10 years at the Noranda Technology Centre as a Senior Scientist in their rock mechanics group. He obtained an MSc in geological engineering and a PhD in geophysics from Queen’s University. John is based in Montreal.