Mining company OZ Minerals and energy and resources open innovation platform Unearthed have partnered to launch the Explorer Challenge.
This online crowdsourcing competition calls for geologists and data scientists from across the globe to develop ground-breaking approaches to discover new exploration targets at a site near Oz Minerals’ Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia, with a A$1 million ($722,497) prize pool to be awarded to winning ideas, Unearthed said.
Prominent Hill sits within the Mount Woods exploration tenements in northern South Australia. The mine has been in operation since 2009. The site for this competition is the remaining land of the Mount Woods exploration tenements surrounding Prominent Hill.
OZ Minerals’ Chief Executive Officer Andrew Cole said: “We’ve taken an approach from outside our industry and applied it to the challenge. This gives us potential access to thousands of scientists’ ideas and data, compared to our relatively small team of in-house geologists – a different and diverse perspective to interpret our exploration data.
“The challenge presents a number of benefits and, importantly, helps us gain new insights and find new approaches to push the boundaries of our geological understanding of the area.
“The challenge is a continuation of our digital transformation journey, which we started two years ago when we migrated all our exploration data to the Amazon Web Service cloud. We want to find ways to work smarter with all the data we’ve got, not just geological data, and challenge existing concepts of how we are harnessing it.”
The Explorer Challenge seeks to test how the global mining and resources industry may leverage data science to its full potential in the future.
Unearthed Founding Director Justin Strharsky said mineral exploration is difficult and economic mineral deposits are rare: “During the exploration process, the iterative process of collecting different datasets, followed by geological interpretation, can take a very long time. Vast amounts of data are collected and processed, and very often this does not result in a discovery.
“The Explorer Challenge will speed up the exploration lifecycle and allow us to analyse information at a much faster rate than before. This competition represents a fundamental change in approach to problem-solving. Data science techniques can be used for exploration and many other challenges faced by the industry.
“This is a very real example of the future of work within the industry in general and exploration, in particular. Organisations must understand the business-as-usual approach in this industry will no longer suffice. The traditional borders of our companies must be expanded virtually to include people with different skills and perspectives from around the world. If your approach to digital skills is to hire people who happen to live near your HQ on the basis of a CV or a degree from a school you recognise, you’re doing it wrong.”
Participating innovators will put their skills to the test and develop solutions for the duration of the 10-week online competition and compete for not only A$1 million in prize money, but also the chance to have their winning model tested in real life, with the top targets scheduled to be drilled next year, Unearthed said.
OZ Minerals will announce the Explorer Challenge at the South Australian Exploration and Mining Conference held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on December 7, 2018.
Interested participants can register their interest at the Explorer Challenge site and will be notified when the competition opens in February 2019. Entries close May 2019, and winners will be announced in June 2019.