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It remains a fundamental truth that the efficiency and productivity of a mining operation rests on how well the geology is understood. Therefore, many forms of data need to be included in analysis and be easily accessible and used in processes, so their true value is realised.

When photographs of primary data like core and chip were first taken the images were more a form of insurance against loss than anything else. But over time these images have grown in significance and in demand for verification, analysis, and consensus and to make timely decisions about field work. Even small improvements in decision making made at this stage can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

However, the storage and handling of these valuable geoscientific images can be haphazard, even locating them can be a challenge with images often stored on file servers which are difficult to navigate, maintain and search. And when located, sharing becomes another issue. Sending large files is painful with drillers using WhatsApp to communicate from the field or geologists painstakingly selecting and copying images to their laptop to take with them to meetings in the hope they’re the important ones. Wouldn’t it be better if you had them all? And if photography is poorly captured, how confident can you be in what you’re looking at? There are solutions that improve image capture but that’s just one part of the process, there’s the cataloguing, a tedious job if done manually, and then the connecting of images effectively to other processes, such as modelling, for more informed, better decision making.

And as the availability and type of data continues to skyrocket, particularly with hardware such as sensors becoming cheaper, the owners of the data are presented with new challenges. But often the burden of managing the data falls on those least experienced, distracting them from their core focus and leading to more inefficiencies.

Technology as an enabler

So, what can be done to solve the issue of managing and extracting value from image data so the industry can focus on getting on with business? Seequent have long held the view that technology needs to be the enabler and not the driver for change. As Seequent’s Segment Director Exploration and Resource Management, Rob Ferguson says, “We want to free the geologist to be the best they can, this is the ethos behind everything we do. We don’t want geologists to take on more tedious tasks, we want the geologist to be able to think geology first and software second.”

This is where the cloud solution Imago comes into its own. Imago’s cloud-based platform consolidates images from any source, transforms them into meaningful insights and connects them to the appropriate geological or mining activity. Users can easily access, share, integrate and extract insights from their high-quality geoscientific images and in the process reduce costs and errors, save time, facilitate auditing and improve image quality. Fully agnostic* users connect seamlessly with other software, streamline and create new workflows and make more confident decisions. And through establishing consistent capture and categorising of high-quality images, Imago can operationalise machine learning, unlocking even more value and opportunity from image assets.

* Fully agnostic includes – Hardware, data client and ML platform.

As Imago’s founder, Federico Arboleda, puts it, “It’s geology made easy. Storage is integrated across a much broader imagery management value chain, delivering geological benefits within a geological context, wherever you need to democratise visual insight. For example, if major mining companies are drilling in 18 countries they need those 18 countries to all be working in the same way and they need to keep up with drilling. If management need to review core they can just log into their Imago Portal and help with decision making and collaborate and communicate on a different level. This has been particularly relevant during the pandemic when travel is an issue. They don’t need to be physically there and they can access the data as soon as it is synched to the cloud.”

Imago Capture works offline or online making it suitable for mobile exploration sites as well as core sheds in mature mining environments. When online, images are synched with the user’s Imago Portal making them instantly available to geology and management teams. Viewing is fast and high-performance, users can load in full resolution the portion of the image they are currently seeing with smooth, fast navigation. Imago’s open tech and architecture means access of high-performance images via any web browser. As Federico explains, “If, for instance, a user is curious about a contact, vein or fault on one of their DHs, they can just go to the browser and log into their Imago Portal, where the platform is optimised to show thousands of Gb images superfast.”

It’s also not hard to see how Imago helps to mitigate risks, deploying images safe and secure in a virtual core shed. The joined up process also provides end-to-end auditing, validating and verifying seamlessly. It insures against core loss, degradation, or damage or if core isn’t easily accessible off site. With enterprise security and architecture, including SSO (Single Sign On) role-based access permissions, (subscription, owner, contributor, and viewer) it is already in daily use at several of the world’s Tier 1 exploration and mining operations, where it has a history of high availability, low outages and zero data loss. By providing a secure cloud hosted solution for managing large files it also obviates the need for capital investment in IT hardware and could solve your image storage issues for good. There’s no limit to file size and storage capacity.

Imago was founded to help mining companies manage the high volume and size of geoscientific images and unlock their value, in contrast to other providers who focused on including proprietary hardware as part of their core offering. Imago is the only fully agnostic solution in both hardware and integration, allowing images to be integrated seamlessly with geological data and modelling tools of choice including Leapfrog, Micromine, Datamine, Surpac, Vulcan, Oasis montaj, acQuire and many more.

Federico says, “Users can export 3D meshes and open them inside their modelling tools, view core trays or linearized downhole images alongside drillholes, providing you with a tool to quickly zoom in and out of a particular depth at the speed of Google Maps. This instant, fast access to images provides rich information to support interpretation and modelling. Without this integration users are left floundering trying to use files to integrate with their modelling packages.”

Data Openness

Imago’s open tech and architecture mean users own the data and can access it where and how they like. This open architecture (API) also means that it is easy to add new integrations. Seequent sees the opportunity to integrate Imago further into other industries to help geoscientists and engineers solve earth, environment, and energy challenges. The recognition of the importance of this openness and interoperability is a driving force at Seequent. Any data management solution needs to facilitate open interoperability and provision of flexible tools for data import and export. Testament to this, Imago’s users need never fear losing access to their data, at any point during or after termination of subscription users can download their data in an orderly manner using Imago’s tools.

Rob Ferguson adds, “We are known for ease of use and openness towards data, we want geologists to have the most holistic view of their data as possible. We will continue to take this further and be able to consume even more new generational data sets and new technologies.”

In pursuit of this Seequent remains a key collaborator member of the Global Mining Guidelines (GMG) Group’s Open Mining initiative, which is creating an open standard for mining information.

Machine Learning and AI

But Imago closes the loop by offering one more stage in its data management. Through establishing consistent capture of high quality images to the Imago Portal it is then possible to integrate them with existing workflows and identify problems to solve with machine learning (ML). Algorithms use statistics to find patterns in massive amounts of data, in this case the massive multiple files that make up geoscientific images. As these geoscientific images are digitally stored, they can be fed into a ML algorithm, which in simple form finds the pattern and applies it. Imago operationalises this ML through getting image data ready for ML with the user still retaining full control and ownership of the data, in stark contrast to more common ML experience in mining which is often based on consulting projects where static information is handed back. There is a future opportunity for Imago to automate core condition classification and more.

Seequent’s Rob Ferguson concludes, “When you consider that 100,000 metres of drilling can create 30,000 images all over 100s of MB each, it’s not difficult to see the problem and also recognise the opportunity. Imago provides the effective way to manage and extract value. It’s the next best thing to looking down on the core in the shed and your high-resolution images are available anytime via the cloud and for use in virtually any way you want them. View, share and collaborate, use in your modelling or in machine learning to automate repetitive tasks, provide predictions and free the geologist to focus on the geology. This unlocks significant potential for mining and also other industries to transform photo data into meaningful insight for geoscientific activities.”