Mineral exploration companies around the world are trying out new software developed at UWA which makes exploration over large areas more effective and more efficient.
A team of researchers led by Dr Eun-Jung Holden at the Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET) in the School of Earth and Environment boosted the functionalities of Geosoft Oasis montaj software, one of the world’s most widely-used geophysical spatial data processing software, when her team’s work was commercialised last month and licensed to Geosoft, an international company based in Canada.
Working with Winthrop Professor Mike Dentith (on the geophysical side) and Dr Peter Kovesi (on the algorithms), Dr Holden, a computer scientist with an expertise in computer vision, developed software known as the CET Grid Analysis extension for the Geosoft system that allows more data to be analysed much more quickly and in a non-subjective manner.
The CET Grid Analysis extension has tools for several applications that automate the detection of features that are important for exploration within geophysical data.
It has tools for texture analysis, phase analysis and structure detection. It provides a rapid workflow that vastly reduces the time needed for interpreting large volumes of gridded data.
“The extension is specifically designed for mineral exploration geophysicists and geologists looking for what they call discontinuities within magnetic and gravity data,” Dr Holden said. Analysing regions of magnetic/gravity discontinuities is critical in understanding the geology of an area, and important for mineral exploration.
Dr Holden joined the Geophysics and Image Analysis Group at CET in 2006. “I didn’t know much about geophysics and geoscience in general before then, but computer science skills are required in so many varied fields and it is working together in a multi-disciplinary team that gets results,” she said.
“My task was to bring the latest advances in computer vision research to the field of geophysics and see if we could make it work for exploration.”
The team’s work was published and then the prototype software was used in some consulting work. “It was then that we thought perhaps we should commercialise this.”
The Office of Industry and Innovation stepped in with a $40,000 Pathfinder grant to get the process moving. Dr Holden’s group employed a research associate Shih Ching Fu, who did the implementation of the commercial plug-ins for Geosoft.
Geosoft and Barrick Gold, one of the world’s biggest gold mining companies, were UWA’s partners in the development and evaluation of the CET Grid Analysis extension, and Geosoft has released and is marketing the software.
It has already become an indispensable tool for Barrick Gold, providing a huge time savings benefit. Matthew Hope, Barrick’s project geophysicist for Africa/Eurasia, said the new tool was extremely useful in identification and mapping of dislocations and gradient changes commonly associated with greenstone gold deposits.