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Data scientists and geoscientists offered A$1m to predict next big mineral deposit in South Australia

Underground operation at the Prominent Hill mine. Photo by OZ Minerals.

Energy and resources open innovation platform Unearthed joined forces with Adelaide-based OZ Minerals to launch the Explorer Challenge, a competition that brings together data scientists, geoscientists and mining professionals to create machine learning-based mining solutions.

Competitors who achieve the goal of predicting the next big mineral deposit in South Australia using real geoscientific data and drilling results provided by OZ Minerals, will be awarded A$500,000, A$300,000, and A$100,000 for reaching first, second and third place respectively.

The challenge opened on February 28 and ends on May 9, 2019, and registration must be completed on Unearthed’s website.

The goal is to speed up the exploration lifecycle and reduce its impact

Participants will be working with OZ Mineral’s Prominent Hill copper-gold mine, which sits within the Mount Woods exploration tenements in northern South Australia and has been active since 2009.

“We’ve taken an approach from outside our industry and applied it to the Challenge. This gives us potential access to thousands of scientists’ ideas and data, compared to our relatively small team of in-house geologists – a different and diverse perspective to interpret our exploration data,” OZ Minerals’ Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cole, said. “We want to find ways to work smarter with all the data we’ve got, not just geological data, and challenge existing concepts of how we are harnessing it.”

From the technology perspective, Unearthed Founding Director Justin Strharsky said the competition represents a fundamental change in approach to problem-solving as it will speed up the exploration lifecycle and allow miners to analyse information at a much faster rate than before.

“During the exploration process, the iterative process of collecting different datasets, followed by geological interpretation, can take a very long time. Vast amounts of data are collected and processed, and very often this does not result in a discovery,” Strharsky said. “Data science techniques can be used for exploration and many other challenges faced by the industry. This is a very real example of the future of work within the industry in general, and exploration in particular.”

Winners will be announced in June 2019 and besides the main categories, there will be a Student Prize, Genius Prize, and Data Hound Prize.