How important is your geological data? It might sound like a rhetorical question, but it’s worth doing a quick analysis to determine whether you’re giving it the respect it deserves. The way you approach geoscientific information management (GIM) can make a difference between building foundational assets for your mine or exploration project or expending your budget. Read on to find out how to avoid making expensive piecemeal decisions.

The two most common questions we receive from people wanting tools to manage their geological data are:

  1. How much does it cost?
  2. Can I get a product demo?

Frankly, this approach is a problem.

Each area of information management adds specific value in exploration and mining operations. Before making any purchasing decisions, it’s essential to consider the three pillars of GIM:

  • People: Skilled professionals, usually geologists, are responsible for and rely on observations and measurements taken in your mine. You’ll need at least one dedicated data champion  – someone who grasps IT, geology, and business knowledge. The geologists working in data champion roles must be able to work with other functions in the organisations, including those people who depend on geological data from an operational and management standpoint. GIM is a team sport encompassing many different groups in a mining organisation.
  • Process: Workflows uncover many opportunities for cost savings, especially where tasks can be automated or technology can be used to avoid human error. A focus on accuracy is essential (e.g., getting your coding systems right, ensuring each drillhole number is unique.) This is also the place to consider all the touchpoints people use when dealing with your data, including web, desktop and mobile apps.
  • Technology: Hardware and software used to manage data, along with connectivity between different technologies, add efficiencies, especially when vendors integrate with other products. Interoperability should be a key consideration for any technology and so should the vendor’s technology road map. Before you invest in anything, ensure the vendor has a vision for how they’ll continue to improve and support their products.

Data is an expense without GIM considerations behind it

It’s not unusual for errors to creep into geological observations related to drilling, sampling, and geophysics. This can happen during data collection due to human error and also when geological data is transferred between hardware and software programs. Maintaining the integrity and validity of geological data over time has historically been a challenge.

Data management is often seen as an expense but how much more does it cost your operation when you’re constantly fixing erroneous data or your database geologists are spending large amounts of their time administering data inefficiently?  

Using geological data for decision-making isn’t limited to what goes on in the pit. Data integrity becomes increasingly important over the lifetime of a mine site because all the information collected as part of the exploration process is vital for future decisions at the mine. Having factual information to rely on is vital for operational, milling and business decisions. Good data also enhances the saleability of a mine.

How to make a business case for GIM

How do you prevent valuable data from being corrupted, especially when the focus is on reducing expense or in the face of budget cuts?   

Companies need to think more broadly about how geological information can provide cost savings for them. Consider the collective time savings that can be realised when all three pillars of GIM are present and working in unison. You can easily extrapolate this out to salary and benefits, not to mention the cost savings attributed  to regularly making better operational decisions.

With good information, you can make quicker drilling decisions and experience less standby time. You can also conduct resource modelling more efficiently with better information.

The benefits to GIM extend beyond the costs of data collection and data management. A good business case will aggregate cost savings along the mining value chain – an often substantial amount of money. It becomes much easier to justify the cost of a GIM solution when the bigger picture is considered.

Key to success

You will need a data champion in your organisation to guide the justification process and build a business case. A mine manager will have a different set of concerns than a geologist. Those will be different yet from a procurement officer or a DBA. The person with data responsibilities can draw a thread through all these disciplines to come up with the most accurate picture.

You’ll also need executive support to clear obstacles and ensure your cost justification is thorough. Someone on the executive team will also help you avoid internal politics and signal areas that may be of greater or lesser focus in the current budget year. While it’s essential to put your business case in monetary terms, don’t be afraid to present the cost of risk associated with making decisions in the absence of good data, especially where safety is compromised.

The mining industry is awash in data. Figure out what is important for your company to collect and monitor and then make a business case to support it.