Data management: The key to minimising risk to Mineral Resource Estimates

Post Date
03 April 2024
Kimantha Gokul
Leah Longley
Hannah Talbot
Read Time
5 minutes
  • Mining advisory

The often overlooked, but indisputably most valuable component of any mining project or operation, is data. The success of your data governance, that is, the process of managing the availability, usability, integrity, and security of data, can significantly impact the success of your project. Why? Because data is the foundation upon which your Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) is built and needs to be considered by the Competent Person when assigning a confidence level to mineral resources.

The MRE feeds into all downstream analyses of the mining project, including mineral reserves, mine planning, and economics. A lack of, or reduced confidence in your data ultimately reduces confidence, and therefore classification, of the MRE which may result in difficulty raising capital when you need it, significant delays with advancing the project, which can often be associated with additional costs, or the inability to keep the project going. The risk of unreliable and poor-quality data on your project can easily be reduced by putting more thought and effort into it sooner rather than later. So, let’s look at some aspects of what best practice for data governance looks like and what the benefits are for your project.

Data collection for a potential mining project starts from day one and continues throughout the life of the mine. The initial stage of a mining project often entails targeting a mineral deposit of economic interest by collecting and analysing open-source data like geological maps, geophysical surveys, and reports, and evaluating nearby mines.

Once a target location has been identified and a license secured, prospecting and exploration begins. It is common practice at this stage to spend time planning the exploration campaign, e.g. mapping, surface sampling, trenching, geophysics, and drilling activities, with the aim of collecting as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. Drilling data usually forms the bulk of the dataset at the exploration stage, however, little thought is usually put into data management at this stage. We believe it is at this planning stage when data governance pertaining to the drilling needs to be considered and incorporated into your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Although there are many aspects relating to drilling data that are important to incorporate into your SOP, like logging, sampling, and quality control procedures, we will focus on two key questions that are often overlooked.

How will you capture the drilling data?

Oftentimes, we notice that paper or Excel spreadsheets are the go-to options for capturing drilling data. Yes, they are cheaper and easily accessible, however, the main problem here is the poor management of these files. There are often transcribing mistakes (when going from paper to digital), multiple spreadsheets and versions of spreadsheets, and the inability to track changes. Using spreadsheets can be an acceptable option if a good SOP is developed, implemented well, and monitored regularly. This is often not the case. We recommend considering the use of drillhole logging software, with many options available today. These applications can be used on tablets or phones and have templates that are customisable to your deposit and the data you are collecting. Usually there are costing options that are scaled, depending on the stage of your project (greenfields, brownfields or operating mine).

Some benefits of using logging software are:

  • Ease of use;
  • Real time data validation;
  • Automatic data syncing directly into a database;
  • Changes are tracked and auditable.

This approach also ensures there is always one version of the facts. The use of data management technology will significantly bolster the integrity of your data at the start of your project and streamline the entire data capturing process.

How will you store the drilling data you capture?

Data collection usually has a significant cost and securing this dataset is paramount. We often find that when spreadsheets are used for data capture, they are subsequently stored on laptops or hard drives, rather than a database. This means that data can be easily tampered with, deleted, corrupted, or lost. When the time comes for geological modelling or mineral resource estimation, the scramble to find the latest files, compile and validate the data begins, often taking a considerable amount of time and possibly eating into the project budget. Datasets stored in this manner are questionable and risky to the project. Consider the cost of this exercise and the potential cost of lost or unreliable data i.e. the cost of re-drilling. Eventually a database is acquired, and data uploaded, however, the time between collection and upload is often too long, again compromising the integrity of the data.

We recommend always selecting and setting up a geological database at the planning stage. As with data collection, there are many good scalable options available today, that are usually packaged with logging applications allowing for streamlined syncing of data into the database. The benefits are that you have secure, reliable, readily available, and usable data (good data governance). This also means that interpretation of the data can happen more efficiently than traditional storage methods, creating the opportunity to optimise drilling projects in real-time.

Selecting data capture and data management software solutions at the planning stage will allow you to budget for this early in the project and give you time to ensure personnel are adequately trained before the data starts to flow in.When choosing a database that best suits your project’s aims and needs, considerations should also be made for future access to the data. The chosen database software or storage method should be readily accessible for downstream personnel or personnel working on future drilling programs. For larger projects, designing a database that can bring in multidisciplinary data (e.g. geotechnical logging and geometallurgical data) may also be something to consider in the planning stage. SLR is independent of all software suppliers, and we can advise on what’s best for your project. Just get in touch.

Good data management is the key to minimising risk and uncertainty. It is the foundation of adding value to your project. What is your dataset worth?

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