Goldcorp partners with IBM to hunt for exploration targets at Red Lake

IBM Watson supercomputer will "learn to think like a geologist"

Goldcorp (NYSE:GG,TSX:G) is teaming up with one of the world's largest computer companies to help it find more gold at its storied Red Lake mine in Ontario.

Vancouver-based Goldcorp announced on March 3 it is bringing IBM Watson technology to Canadian mining for the first time. Named after IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson, Watson is a supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence with analytical software. According to WhatIs, IBM Watson replicates the human ability to answer questions by accessing 90 servers with a combines data storage of 200 million pages of information. Yet it can squeeze into a space that would fit 10 refrigerators. The supercomputer memorized the "urban dictionary" in 2013.

"Watson is learning to think like a geologist, learning to understand millions of core samples, 3D models, maps, seismic surveys and geological data."

While the High Grade Zone (HGZ) has been the backbone of the Red Lake operation, with an average gold grade over two ounces per tonne, HGZ is expected to be depleted by 2020. Thus the need for more exploration to keep the mine going.

"Watson is learning to think like a geologist, learning to understand millions of core samples, 3D models, maps, seismic surveys and geological data. IBM Watson is empowering Golcorp's geologists to uncover more answers because they're able to ask more questions, leading to accelerated geological insights and news levels of certainty in orebody discovery and mine planning," narrates a video on the partnership.

IBM says at Red Lake, Watson will be used to analyze vast amounts of data – from drilling reports to geological survey information – to help geologists determine specific areas to explore next, reach high-value exploration targets faster, calculate geological models with more certainty, and interpret the growing volume of data as geologists drive new discoveries. This will improve the ability of geologists to surface new information from existing data and deliver regionalized insights that will assist in the exploration process.

"The ability of IBM Watson to understand, learn, reason, and interact will have a considerable impact on the Canadian mining industry by enabling geologists to make more data-driven decisions, faster," said Mark Fawcett, a partner with IBM Global Business Services. "In industries such as natural resources where knowledge professionals are working with a rapidly growing volume of data, Watson is helping to evolve how professionals operate, make decisions, drive value, and gain competitive advantage."

"Goldcorp has always been focused on responsible mining practices," said Paul Harbidge, senior vice president of exploration at Goldcorp. "By coupling our exploration and mining expertise with IBM Watson's cognitive strength, we will be able to make the exploration targeting process more efficient, ultimately generating higher yields and creating less environmental impact. Geologists will be able to more accurately determine the next target, enabling our teams to locate undiscovered gold deposits that may have previously required multiple drills to find."

A demonstration of IBM Watson was held at #DisruptMining, an event held Sunday March 5 at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto.