No matter the size of the mining company, data management is an ongoing challenge. In a recent geoscience survey, the vast majority of respondents (83%) identified data management as a critical or “top 5” issue.1 All mineral exploration and mining companies need to be able to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders across different locations, share and react quickly to new data being created.
However, in this blog, we want to explore the unique set of challenges that junior exploration companies face when managing their data. We asked one of our technical data experts Janina Elliott on what are these key challenges and what can be done to solve them.
“In a nutshell, we often see that with smaller companies, come smaller teams with higher turnover, so you need tools that enable knowledge sharing and skills transfer. To position your organisation for growth it is important to standardise workflows and make your inhouse systems compatible externally. Finally, you need the capability to provide clear auditability for investors and demonstrate your company’s value for potential acquisitions.” Says Janina.
Challenge #1: Physical Barriers to Collaboration
Juniors may have a smaller set of people working on their models, but that doesn’t mean they are better structured to collaborate. In fact, collaboration and the sharing of data can be very challenging. “Often team members are scattered in different locations, both onsite and off. They also tend to work in shifts, rotating the times when they visit the site, so there is little physical crossover and few opportunities for the sharing of information. All of these factors lead to collaboration challenges and communication breakdown. Even when team members have the opportunity to work together in the same room, the simple fact is that geologists are not data managers. They need tools to help them manage data in order to interpret it in a meaningful way.” Comments Janina
A centralised software solution that helps you visualise, track, manage, and share your geological data can remove physical barriers to collaboration. Cloud hosting can also ensure all team members have access to contribute, and a browser-based platform can empower individuals to easily view 3D models and have in person or online discussions on what has changed, why it has changed, and what the ramifications are. No matter how geographically scattered your team members are, a centralised solution can enable them to discuss the potential benefits of data as it comes in, share the impacts, and keep all stakeholders up to date.
Challenge #2: Poorly Organised Data for Investments and Acquisitions
Geoscientific data underlies the most critical business decisions in the mining industry. When the data that supports such decisions is poorly managed, it negatively affects valuations and acquisitions. “Most smaller companies tend to have a business model where they collect very basic data from the exploration environment, and then they work to prove resource value with as much accuracy as possible for an acquisition or to secure investment.” Janina says. There is the assumption that all data management is digital and 3D, but the reality is that some smaller organisations have to work with 2D paper sections and plans. This makes it very difficult to effectively manage the data.
There are tools that help smaller companies visualise, track, audit, and manage their data in 3D. Such high-level organisation of the data and 3D resource visibility can demonstrate economic value, draw investors to you, enable them to see how your company fits into their larger portfolio, and help them to quickly make an acquisition or investment decision in your favour.
Challenge #3: High Turnover and Loss of Knowledge
“Within Juniors, team members are often young, seasonal contract workers who work during the summer months and may pursue other opportunities in the following seasons. The nature of the work brings high turnover, and if there isn’t a good data management system in place, a considerable amount of knowledge walks out of the door when they leave.”
Modelling processes and outputs are often dependent on the stewardship of individuals in smaller mining companies, and there is a significant need for the preservation of such information and knowledge. Collaborative data management tools are available to facilitate data and knowledge transfer. You can pick up where team members left off, see all data and past decisions made, easily integrate new data, control and preserve different model versions, and ensure that the data and knowledge persist over the life of a project.
Challenge #4: Collaborating Externally
Oftentimes smaller companies need to interact with third parties, such as consultants. They may hire additional consultants to build individual projects, for example resource estimations, if they lack the bandwidth or capability in house.
“The organisation and structure of data storage should enable all users to access and work with the data, whether they are in-house or outside contractors. Being able to interact through a central platform and share information is extremely valuable, especially when developing a coherent understanding of an early stage deposit.” Comments Janina. There are tools that not only ensure data is centralised and secure, they also ensure accessibility for all stakeholders, regardless of location. If connectivity is a challenge in the sharing of large models, then your data management software should be capable of uploading your incremental changes and still provide universal access to the complete up-to-date model. By using software that uploads incremental megabytes rather than gigabytes, you will save considerable time and server space.
Challenge #5: Sharing information internally and building a holistic view
Juniors are often led by those with geology backgrounds. These geologists are often faced with the challenge of connecting and ultimately correlating different types of data to achieve a holistic view.
Especially in early exploration, building an interpretive model with very little data or possibly lots of data but in different formats poses a difficult task. You need to be confident that data and model revisions are securely preserved at points in time, that updating does not damage prior versions, and that you can present a holistic, polished view of the company, which also makes it more marketable.
How Seequent Central Can Help
Seequent Central is there to help you visualise, track, and manage geological data in 3D from a centralised, auditable environment. It brings teams together, helps them collaborate and share knowledge, and enables all stakeholders, from team members to investors, to make confident decisions.
With Seequent, you can choose from a range of flexible subscription options according to your requirements.