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Explorer Challenge goes live

Global innovators focus on OZ Minerals’ 1 TB plus of data.

It’s official! The journey to discovery with data has begun on the Explorer Challenge, a unique online crowdsourcing competition that asks geologists and data scientists from across the globe to develop ground-breaking approaches to discover new exploration targets at OZ Minerals’ Mount Woods site in South Australia.

Ahead of the data release on 28 February 2019, the competition had attracted more than 1,000 registrations from 40 countries, including the involvement of over 60 universities – all seeking to share in the A$1 million prize pool to be awarded to the winning ideas.

Crowdsourcing seeks to harness the collective intelligence of people around the globe to address tough challenges. Exploration is a prime candidate for the method, given that finding new mineral resources is an intensive process.

OZ Minerals has teamed with international open innovation platform Unearthed to focus on the Mount Woods project that sits near OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill copper–gold mine.

The Mount Woods project is thought to be highly prospective for a variety of mineralisation styles, yet no economic mineralisation has yet been discovered. An advantage in finding an economic deposit at Mount Woods would be the ability for OZ Minerals to make further use of its Prominent Hill processing assets.

OZ Minerals’ Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cole, says finding ways to work smarter with all the data on hand is the way of the future, and much can be achieved by expanding traditional borders to bring together people with different skill sets.

‘The iterative process of collecting different datasets, followed by geological interpretation can take a long time. The Explorer Challenge is one way we can speed up the exploration lifecycle and analyse information at a much faster rate,’ Andrew said.

In the Explorer Challenge, project teams have access to more than one terabyte of exploration data as they test the limits of data science and geology to develop new ideas about mineral exploration, with the aim of discovering new exploration targets.

According to Holly Bridgwater, Industry Lead - Crowdsourcing at Unearthed, what sets this crowdsourcing project apart from many others, is that the Explorer Challenge has been designed to be accessible to both geologists and data scientists.

‘Through the Explorer Challenge, we have encouraged innovators from outside the mining industry – be that data scientists, mathematicians and beyond – to work with domain experts,’ she said.

‘The advantage of this cross-disciplinary approach is that we’ll see state-of-the art data-science techniques being applied to the mineral exploration challenge to create amazing ideas.’

Competitors will have 10 weeks to pore over at least 50,000 datasets that cover spatial layers and data, including drilling information, airborne and ground geophysics, regional and prospective drilling maps, surface geochemistry, petrophysics, imagery, documents and more.

‘All the different data collected has the potential to give signals and indicators and when analysed in different ways gives the best opportunity to highlight points of difference and generate new thinking to help find the prized needles in the haystack,’ she added.

On top of the OZ Minerals dataset, the open file data platform SARIG (South Australian Resource Information Gateway) will serve as an important resource available to contenders. Provided by the South Australian Government, SARIG hosts a wealth of open file data from previous exploration efforts and public geoscience, which includes activity relevant to the Mount Wood Project and surrounds.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has also partnered in the project providing complementary data storage and computation.

Winners will be awarded on technical merit, from the points of view of data scientists and geologists. A judging panel of eight will represent both disciplines equally.

The top targets will be drilled in the second half of 2019.

Submissions close in May and winners will be announced in June 2019.

Keep up with the Explorer Challenge

– Grace Taylor and Hannah Frankish (Unearthed), February 2019

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