Mining boom will highlight geology degree shortage

MAINSTREAM OPTION Micromine's implicit modelling module is used for everything from predicting possible intersections to running automatic model updates

RISKY BUSINESS It appears that few geologists have end-to-end ownership of their project data

25th November 2016

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer


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Should we enter another mining boom, there may not be enough universities offering bachelor degrees in geology to meet the industry’s subsequent demand for geological services, says mining software solutions provider MICROMINE technical product manager Frank Bilki.

“The current cohort of geologists is ageing, but there are far fewer universities offering industry-relevant geology degrees.

“In Australia, only James Cook University offers a Bachelor of Geology, while other Australian universities offer Bachelor of Science degrees with geology as a major. This will become an issue as more geologists retire and are not replaced by recent graduates.”

Universities in South Africa that offer a Bachelor of Geology include Rhodes University, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Free State.

Dividing up Domain

Furthermore, Bilki notes that MICROMINE has also anecdotally heard about geologists increasingly being used as production line workers, where each geologist specialises and is given a specific job, such as to plan, supervise, interpret or model.

“While this information is anecdotal, it has come to us from clients at a management level and from geologists working in the field. It may not represent the entire industry,” he adds.

“It may be a simple case of contractual practicality. It is generally easier for a large company to hire (and terminate) contract geologists who satisfy specific job requirements, such as planning, supervision or logging, than it is to hire a project geologist with end-to-end ownership. “Plus, large companies generally don’t do a lot of exploration and only require a narrow range of geological skills such as grade control and resource modelling.”

Bilki further elaborates that small exploration companies are generally focused on finding a resource that is good enough to be purchased (or farmed into) by a larger company, explaining that, in this setting, geologists may not get an opportunity to expand beyond exploration.

“It appears that few geologists have end-to-end ownership of their project data, increasing the risk of poor drill design and misinterpreted data.

“Perhaps this explains the rising demand for data types like three-dimensional cylindrical core imagery to give modelling geologists a virtual view of rocks they might otherwise not see,” Bilki proposes.

Micromine’s modelling toolkit includes three complementary workflows – traditional hard rock, implicit and stratigraphic – and can combine them in any way to model virtually any mineral deposit.

Bilki says implicit modelling is becoming increasingly mainstream.

“Geologists use Micromine’s implicit modelling module for everything from predicting possible intersections in a newly planned hole to running automatic model updates whenever new drill results come in.

“However, like all numerical techniques, ‘garbage in, means garbage out’, and there are many enthusiastic implicit modellers producing pretty but meaningless models,” warns Bilki.

Bringing It All Together

“By integrating and analysing multispectral and hyperspectral satellite imagery, geochemical surveys and geological maps, as well as regional magnetic and gravity surveys, geologists can identify and prioritise potential targets long before fieldwork starts,” Bilki outlines.

However, gaining geological understanding in a newly prospective region begins with a combination of existing data and ‘boots-on-the-ground’ geology, he poses.

Bilki explains that good fieldwork is critical to the success of early exploration and it is vital that exploration companies hire competent geologists, provide them with training, where necessary, and end-to-end ownership of the information that they produce.

To aid fieldwork, MICROMINE offers Geobank Mobile, a lightweight field-logging solution that includes options for interfacing with magnetic susceptibility meters, integrated or external GPS devices and scales.

Exploration geologists may choose from various geochemical and geophysical services to suit their mineral deposit, Bilki says. Traditionally, they send geochemical samples, collected at the surface or from drilling, to an assay laboratory for analysis.

No two mineral deposits are the same, he says, and preparation and analytical methods must be chosen to suit the composition and abundance of the minerals under investigation.

Edited by Tracy Hancock
Creamer Media Contributing Editor




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