Tag Archives: Dr Michelle Carey

IMDEX evaluates the mining industry’s emerging trends

IMDEX says its global footprint in key mining regions throughout the world gives it an important glimpse of the some of the emerging trends and challenges facing the sector, trends that were taking shape prior to the onset of COVID-19.

Leveraging technology, or, more specifically, the cloud, is one development the Australia-based company has noted in recent years.

“The global minerals industry has turned to technology to improve safety, enhance efficiencies and reduce the cost of exploration and extraction,” it said.

When people think about innovation, most minds turn to autonomous haulage or remote operations, but there is an enabler to this innovation, according to IMDEX: the cloud.

Companies, not least of which those in the mining services and resources sector, are utilising cloud platforms to store data remotely and retrieve it via the internet. Remote mining operations using an array of software, sensors and communications are becoming routine because of these systems, IMDEX says.

But the cloud also provides the opportunity to improve productivity.

IMDEX General Manager, Product Development, Dr Michelle Carey, said clients were increasingly wanting to use the cloud because it enabled them to get data faster and in real time.

“We refer to it as the single source of truth,” Dr Carey said. “Accurate, reliable data delivered in real time that can be seen simultaneously by many people, which then enables real-time decision making.

“It also means there are no issues about the chain of custody. Using the cloud gives clients the confidence that no-one has tampered with the data so they can make decisions based on data they trust.”

Business’ enormous appetite for the collection and storage of data is making these platforms increasingly popular, according to IMDEX. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable that companies would be sharing computing and IT resources over the internet. “Today the cloud is a business imperative,” it said.

The resources sector, once satisfied its concerns regarding access and data security were met, have been quick to capitalise on cloud computing.

Cloud computing of course does have its downside (similar to any technology). To work properly, cloud systems require reliable internet access. That is increasingly becoming essential on even the most remote mine sites.

EY’s September 2019 poll of mining executives indicated that ensuring digital (and data) effectiveness continues to rank within the top risks for their respective organisations. EY also noted further that cloud-related investment will account for the largest share of technology spend (over the next two years) in more than 50% of companies.

IMDEX has been in the cloud for over 10 years and is renowned for its real-time, subsurface intelligence solutions with numerous sensors on the drill site, at the core farm and increasingly on the bench collecting high-quality data, it said.

These technologies can be connected to IMDEXHUB-IQ™ – a cloud-based web portal that collects, stores and provides critical operational data. This data is protected through a validated chain of custody and a secure database, accessible from any internet connection to smart phone, tablet or PC, according to IMDEX.

Social licence to operate

According to IMDEX, the notion of licence to operate is evolving, with society expecting more from organisations.

“Once, companies in the minerals and resources sector focused primarily on ensuring compliant operations,” IMDEX said. “Today, compliance is just ‘step-one’… the minimum standard.”

The company added: “External stakeholders are scrutinising companies more than ever; how an organisation is managing environmental responsibilities and the health and safety of their workforce. They are insisting on local content and strong community investment; ensuring there’s support for local indigenous communities and that a company is committed to addressing climate change.”

The effective management of these requirements ensures the community will have confidence in an organisation, granting their social licence because they trust the company.

Earning trust and confidence is seeing a shift in how organisations structure the management of community stakeholders, according to IMDEX.

IMDEX said it will include additional economic, environmental and social impacts of its activities in its 2020 annual report, with the aim of preparing a sustainability report in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative standards within three years.

Dr Carey said IMDEX already had a suite of products and services that supported the sustainable operation of mining industry stakeholders.

“Our technologies improve productivity by providing information that affects decisions throughout the life of the mine, but they also have sustainability and environmental benefits,” Dr Carey said.

“The technologies enable clients to understand material properties accurately at a finer scale, and in real-time, enabling them to mine with less waste and process ore more effectively.

“Improved precision in exploration, drilling programs and mining means a reduction in waste. Things like our Solids Removal Units and BOS tool means reducing the use of water during the drilling and the size of the footprint disturbed during drilling.”

Avoiding hit and miss drilling programs

As mining companies go further afield and explore under cover to replace diminished reserves, deep directional drilling on existing sites is increasingly becoming part of their campaigns, according to IMDEX.

There is plenty to consider before embarking on a drilling program, including traps in chasing the cheapest price if it fails to deliver, by not hitting the target.

IMDEX Global Lead, Directional Drilling, Kelvin Brown, and General Manager, Product Development, Dr Michelle Carey, discussed the issues in a recent webinar, ‘Directional Drilling: Strategies and technologies to stay on target and not blow your budget’.

Dr Carey said statistics revealed that directional drilling was increasing and is estimated to grow to around 20% of a drilling program.

“As we all know, it’s getting harder and harder to make discoveries,” Dr Carey said. “A lot of the reason for that is that increasingly we’re having to go under cover.

“What that means, in reality, is that instead of going into a greenfield site, people are going to their existing deposit to start drilling plans. Rapidly you find yourself in a situation where you are drilling quite deep holes, and you’re drilling quite deep holes where you have a target in mind.

“The other thing is the cost of drilling is going up, so we’re actually getting less bang for our buck.

“So really what we need are technologies and approaches that allow us to control cost as we drill deeper, and really balance out cost versus risk. It is not just about low cost – if it means you do not hit your target. It becomes increasingly important that we all know how to do it well.”

Dr Carey and Brown discussed a range of technologies and products designed to increase drilling productivity and efficiencies, including drilling fluids.

“There is an amazing amount of technology available now to help you in your cause of optimising your drilling program. It’s drilling with data,” Dr Carey said. “This is all technology that people have available to them now.

“In directional drilling, we offer downhole motors, one of a number of different technologies for directional drilling which has the combined advantage of flexibility and driller operability. You have got the fluids, which can be critical to how successfully your program runs and IMDEX MUD AID™, which allows you to monitor that.

“And, complementing the fluids, you’ve got a solids removal unit which, again, is optimising your fluid system, removing cuttings, things like that contribute heavily to how successful your drilling program is.”

The other critical technology in directional drilling is the survey tool. Brown said selecting the right survey instruments that could quickly provide the best data, faster, translated into a lower cost.

“The sooner you have it, the sooner you can make a better decision,” he said.

And, for Dr Carey, that means using the data to alter the drilling plan, if required, rather than “blindly going forward” with the initial plan.

“It’s incredibly important that you know when to pause when certain things happen and say, ‘here was our plan, but now we have some data and our plan has changed; let’s step back, plan again and go forward’,” she said.

Brown added: “You need to pay attention to the data. If the hole goes on and it is not going where it needs to go, it won’t fix itself.”

A good relationship with the drilling contractor is also essential, with Brown saying some contracts appear to have “punishment clauses” for failing to hit the target.

That approach has unintended consequences, according to Dr Carey.

“It actually causes people to cheat,” she said. To start manufacturing survey data to ensure they stay within the target zone and that is not the outcome you want.

“Another thing we do see sometimes is that people might have contracts put in front of them with what looks like an attractive rate for doing deep drilling and directional drilling; in fact it looks so attractive that you know they are not going to be able to get the job done for those price tags. Although it seems tempting to sign up to those contracts, you are not doing yourself any favours.”

Brown said: “Things look simple when everything is bundled into a cost per metre, but when it comes to directional drilling everyone needs to understand that there is a time component and you have to be conscious of that.

“If it is about hitting the target, it’s about hitting the target. There is no point having a cheap hole that misses the target.”

IMDEX urges miners to explore cloud-based options

IMDEX’s Dr Michelle Carey and Gervais Perron say the mining technology company’s focus on providing companies with the tools to make real-time decisions in the field can offer improvements across the entire mining value chain.

The company is leveraging developments in communications, data storage and cloud technology to provide the mining industry with applications that can fundamentally improve their operations, it says.

Dr Carey, IMDEX General Manager, Product Development, and Perron, Principal Geoscientist – North America, used a workshop at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention, in Toronto, in March, to focus on real-time decision making in exploration.

“Our technologies are based on increasing rock knowledge by providing trusted data in real time, to allow clients to make the right decisions at the lowest cost possible,” Dr Carey said.

“That is achieved by enabling clients to drill faster and smarter, receiving accurate subsurface data, having our tools linked to the cloud, and by using the power of the Internet of Geosensors.

“IMDEX is working across the mining value chain in order to change the equation.

“What if your team test more targets and/or decrease the time it takes to define a resource? “Would that be a game changer?”

IMDEXHUB-IQ is at the centre of the company’s solutions – from navigation to driller operable geophysics – and enables the efficient transfer of data from the field to the office, according to the company. It provides secure access to validated data, seamlessly transmitted from a range of sub-surface instrumentation, analytical instruments and mobile form data inputs, IMDEX says.

IMDEX recently said miners were starting to see the benefits of this cloud connectivity, with, at the end of December, 58 of IMDEX’s top 100 clients “HUB-enabled”, up from 49 clients as at June 30, 2019.

Perron said: “Drilling data is the primary source of information used to inform the major investment decisions made by a resource company.

“In our opinion, this needs to be done right from the beginning. Not doing so, can lead to misunderstandings that can have major repercussions down the road.

“The technology is available. Real-time data enables better, faster and more confident decisions to be made.

“At IMDEX, our vision is that all our geoscience sensors we put out there are connected to the cloud for easy and fast access, anywhere, anytime.”