Algorithms could boost prospecting odds

New geochemical algorithms that could increase the chances of finding ore deposits and cut mineral exploration costs have started being applied to boost copper exploration returns in South Australia.
Algorithms could boost prospecting odds Algorithms could boost prospecting odds Algorithms could boost prospecting odds Algorithms could boost prospecting odds Algorithms could boost prospecting odds

Senior research fellow in UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, Dr Caroline Tiddy

Staff reporter

Developed by a senior research fellow at the state's UniSA (University of South Australia), the "suite of geochemical tools" has used historic drill data to determine where in geological profiles key chemical elements are typically found in higher concentrations to build the algorithms designed to increase the chances of finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

"Diamond drilling … costs up to $400 a metre and it is not uncommon to drill to depths of 1-2km," says senior research fellow in UniSA's Future Industries Institute, Dr Caroline Tiddy.

"That amounts to an $800,000 bill with no guarantee of success, so it limits the number of drill holes. To add to the challenge, ore deposits are tiny compared to the search space. It's a real life, global problem of looking for a needle in a haystack.

"By using these geochemical tools, companies can better focus their drilling resources into lower risk areas."

Nominated for Australia's 2019 Women in Innovation (Winnovation) Awards for her research, Tiddy says she wants to help develop new technologies for faster, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly drilling. Her search algorithms are said to have been successfully tested around OZ Minerals' Prominent Hill iron oxide-copper-gold mine in South Australia, increasing the footprint of the orebody fourfold.

They have also been trialled on the state's Yorke Peninsula, "highlighting unexplored areas of copper", according to UniSA.