Measuring the effectiveness of geological exploration and looking for trends that will lead to improved exploration success are key drivers for continued investment in the exploration industry.
Mining consultant Xstract has produced a free and open-source mining database and software package, called Xstract Open Database (XODB), to support the capture of quality information in the mining industry and make exploration software more available to junior mining and exploration companies, which most often drive growth in the mining industry.
Mining Weekly reported in July last year that, in countries such as Australia and Canada, junior companies that conducted greenfield exploration, which played an important role in ensuring that current resources were replaced once they had been depleted, led exploration.
Council for Geoscience mineral resources development and engineering geology manager Dr Stewart Foya told Mining Weekly, also in July last year, that the availability of updated geological information could possibly improve the number of explorations worldwide, as the risk relating to exploration could be reduced.
“Geology has traditionally avoided standard methods of logging and nomenclature, as a result of the complexity of the environment and the disparity among projects, geologists and locations.
“Despite these differences, a consistent approach for exploration, geology and mining is necessary to communicate data to mine stakeholders and it also underpins the resource estimates that make mines viable,” states Xstract technical manager Andrew Grosser.
“XODB is unique, as it is the first usable product in exploration to introduce open standards, open systems and open source. We hope that, because of the software’s openness, people in the industry will provide their input and that it will become accepted as an industry standard.
“The main benefit of the product is that it is free and it implements accepted standards in the industry on a practical level. This makes the transfer and analysis of information much easier for people, so people can spend more time on value- adding tasks instead of wasting time on cleaning data,” he says.
He believes that the market is ready to stop reinventing the wheel when it comes to capturing and sharing geological and mining data. “The cost of closed systems, including capital and operational costs, is as prohibitive for many explorers as not keeping quality information,” Grosser says.
“We recommend Microsoft SQL Server to store the data and although it will work on any other database server, XODB supports the Microsoft cloud offering, Azure. By using a standards-based database instead of spreadsheets, clients can ensure that their data integrity is compliant with government and organisational standards,” he says.
Xstract also helps its clients configure the system with versioning to ensure archival and regulatory compliance. The open database connectivity will allow database access to other applications and investments.
“The system provides a number of out-of-the-box reporting options, including a native reporting application, and connections for Microsoft PowerView, Microsoft Excel PowerPivot and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services.
“As the product develops, we hope to share and develop a library of plug-ins and reporting templates with the community,” adds Grosser.
The product is accessible to anyone and can be downloaded for free from http://xodb.xtractgroup.com and has been on the market since November 2012.
Meanwhile, mining services SRK Consult- ing geology consultant Fabio Vergara states in its Exploration Geology newsletter that large amounts of data are usually available, but are often difficult to integrate and use effectively. Simultaneously, old ideas and exploration models often hamper new interpretations and the development of new targets.
With its Perth-based Advance Modelling Laboratory, SRK Consulting uses the latest rapid modelling techniques to solve geological, hydrogeological and geotechnical problems – from early stage exploration to resource estimation and advanced mine design.
“Traditional interpretation involves a time-consuming and subjective two-dimensional section analysis, as opposed to Excalibur three-dimensional (3D) targeting, which adds a new approach to exploration. Excalibur 3D targeting is a new technique that uses all available geological information to build a 3D block model of the site of interest,” says Vergara.
SRK Consulting believes 3D targeting can be successfully applied as an advanced exploration tool when sufficient data is available. The flexibility of the 3D approach allows its application to deposit styles and geological contexts, with a high potential for structurally complex areas.
The geological understanding required to perform the analysis also helps improve the geological model and ensures that all targets identified have strong geological support.
SRK Consulting believes that, with this advancement, the ability to generate logic- based geological 3D models for exploration with speed and accuracy seems not too far away.