Transforming the Mining Value Chain

Underpinning Technologies

We will maximise data acquisition and interpretation for all stages of the Mining Value Chain, so that mining companies can acquire this information rapidly and cost-effectively from every hole drilled at a mine site. The different data sets generated during core logging should not be invisible to each other. They should be combined in order to maximise their value. Visualisation of geology, assays and alteration allows for validation and contextualisation of data sets and verification of field logging, generating multiple layers of information that can then be draped on graphic logs and modelled in three dimensions using software such as Acquire, Leapfrog and ioGAS, using existing or future embedded linkages between these software platforms.

In order to integrate these disparate data sets, computational interpretation and new and existing visualisation technologies will be integrated throughout Themes 1, 2 and 3. 'Big Data'-style computational techniques that have been proven in other fields will be applied to the high-volume and high-dimensional data that will result from this research. Specific examples of such techniques are:

i) Numerical and statistical element or mineral discrimination, such as streamlining the dataflow from LA-ICPMS analyses for mineral characterisation;

ii) Multi-dimensional micro-image analysis, interrogating the spatial distribution over multiple data layers of masses, elements and minerals;

iii) Spatial data analytics, probing the spatial relationships of economic and waste minerals on a deposit or mine scale – end-product outputs will be compatible with major commercial mine software packages to facilitate seamless integration between research computing insights and practical usage of the 3D outputs;

This over-arching use of computational technology throughout the five-year program brings geochemical and textural analyses and computational techniques 'full circle' such that contributing companies will benefit from the new geochemical and mineralogical information developed by the TMVC to inform exploration and project generation.

We are also undertaking high risk innovative equipment development through collaboration with Laurin Technic, an Australian SME specialising in development of LA-ICPMS equipment. Our objective will be to build a tool that can be used for automated laser ablation analysis of drill core. The current LA-ICPMS technology requires painstaking sample preparation, whereby small samples are cut from the drill core, separately mounted in epoxy and then polished for laser analysis. Developing a new direct approach to laser analysis in the core shed will transform data acquisition time from months to days, increase data volumes significantly, and will create the capacity for mining companies to generate comprehensive LA-ICPMS datasets rapidly with a spatial coverage large enough to be effective for detection, geometallurgy and geoenvironmental applications. Developing a tool that would allow this technology to be added to the current coreshed data acquisition facilities will provide a major step-change in data acquisition and processing times. This will require a significant component of experimental design and benchtop testing over the Hub's five year research program.