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Resource Modeling as an Essential Service

Clayton Deutsch,

Many establishments were shuttered recently. Essential services such as grocery stores and pharmacies remained open. Many shops and services deemed non-essential in desperate times will recover from their closure in normal times. Some will not. Mining provides critical resources and products that society needs, but what of resource modeling within the mining sector? A critical analysis of what we do in resource modeling suggests that the cost of a precise and accurate quantification of resource uncertainty is modest with appropriate software and trained professionals. The benefits are far greater than the cost: raw data are turned into support information for important short- and long-term decisions.

Schematic illustration of converting raw data to useful probability intervals to make decisions with.

The essential service provided by resource modeling is to calculate estimates and assessments of uncertainty from general geological information and site-specific data and interpretations. Long range resource estimates support strategic mine planning and deposit valuation. Uncertainty in the metal content of production volumes provide an understanding of geological risk for classification, public disclosure and acquisitions. Comprehensive multivariate rock property models support the consistent understanding and optimization of geometallurgical, geomechanical and geological characteristics of the deposit. Value of information calculations support optimal drill hole spacing and data collection. Automated short-term modeling systems provide process control and (almost) real time reconciliation. Intelligent grade control systems that integrate automatic multivariate modeling, blast movement and dig limit optimization provide support for ongoing mine operations. There are other examples, but the common thread is clear: converting raw data and geological knowledge into coherent decision support information.

Most activities undertaken within a mining company and their service providers would be considered essential. The cyclical lean times and aggressive cost cutting regimes over the years eliminate activities that do not bring value. We have learned to be prepared to clearly explain and demonstrate why our role is essential. Even this protection may not be enough, but it is absolutely required. We also know to explain how our role connects to other activities. Resource modeling has clear links to geologists and other earth science professionals to support their activities. Resource modeling provides block models and resource sensitivity analysis required by mine planning engineers. Block models of appropriate rock properties support mineral processing and other functions.

A key characteristic of an essential service is that it provides something we need. We need resource modeling and solutions to support ongoing decision-making. Geostatistics provides key tools that can be used in resource modeling workflows; however, focusing at a higher level, that is, on the problems and challenges mentioned above is relevant. Geostatistics is not essential. The use of big data, machine learning and predictive analytics is finding its way into all corners of mining. Like geostatistics, these are not essential by themselves. The emerging numerical tools from these disciplines gain value and become essential as they solve problems and provide decision support information. Resource Modeling Solutions embraces and applies numerical tools from these disciplines in all aspects of what we do – as stand-alone solutions to specific problems and as supporting calculations embedded in other algorithms.

The decision support information calculated by modern resource assessment is often probabilistic. A probabilistic resource model provides clarity. A single deterministic resource number, on the other hand, leads to confusion and indecisiveness. I can see some of you raising your eyebrows. Surely, managers would prefer a single number. A single number is valuable because having a best estimate is always useful and required, but how low and high could the true result differ from the best estimate? Is the stated estimate good within 5% or 50%? We often have the ability to seek additional information. The value of additional information could only be judged in the context of how the uncertainty could reduce.

There is no sense of security and perfect predictability in current times. Was there ever such a sense? A rational and validated assessment of uncertainty provides context and clarity to the single best estimate. Such an assessment of uncertainty provides a framework to assess new information or improvements in the information gathering systems. Conveying an understanding of the state of nature is the essential service that resource estimation provides. The true state of nature is uncertain.

Resource Modeling Solutions focuses on workflows and a software platform for essential estimates and rational validated assessments of uncertainty.