DataCloud blasts resource evaluation into new ground

An iron ore orebody 3D visualisation.

DataCloud has demonstrated how merging traditional resources industry knowledge with new technology has become an integral part of innovating the mining sector.

The Seattle-based company, founded in 2016, supplies previously unavailable subsurface information to mining companies in real-time through a measurement and analysis drill and blast platform.

Its solution allows mine operators to use data to engineer grade via differential blasting and consistently achieve a desired fragmentation profile in their muck piles.

The vision behind why the company was formed will sound familiar – it wanted to help resources industry companies improve their processes, performance and productivity. But how DataCloud planned to achieve this required a blend of expertise that is only recently becoming a priority for companies in the industry.

DataCloud initially assembled a core team of personnel with extensive global experience in resource extraction, including many years working for Schlumberger in the oil and gas industry.

This part of the team had spent decades developing and mastering real-time geoscience evaluation tools and workflows common in oil and gas that were not yet being applied in mining.

DataCloud’s remaining team members are primarily from emerging technology sectors, such as cloud computing, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Learning (ML), with deep roots in Silicon Valley.

The company has integrated these skill sets to automate a high level of geoscience interpretation, which is being performed on streaming data collected from routine drill and blast mine site activities.

DataCloud chief executive officer Thor Kallestad says the company has emerged in mining with a unique offering that complements the diverse expertise of its personnel.

“We are the only company providing this real-time rock mass intel during drilling and blasting and we are unique in that we have this extensive background on how to evaluate rocks from a previous life in the oil and gas industry,” Kallestad tells Australian Mining.

“Now we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the advent of technologies like cloud computing and big data. We feel we have a good head start on doing something new for the industry.”

Thor Kallestad.

DataCloud launched the RHINO geoscience logging tool for the mining industry last year. It uses IoT sensors, seismic-while-drilling techniques and machine learning to measure previously unavailable rock properties from blast hole drills in real-time.

The insights allow mining companies to accurately and quickly interpret grade distributions and rock mechanical properties that are required for blasting.

Mining companies can also access the information conveniently via application programming interfaces (APIs), browsers and mobile devices.

The DataCloud team captured the attention of global blasting company Orica, which has partnered and invested in the company to further develop its platform.

Orica group executive, chief commercial and technology officer Angus Melbourne, speaking at the Austmine 2019: Mining Innovation Conference, says the DataCloud collaboration focuses on establishing a better understanding of the resource the company is working on.

“DataCloud’s revolutionary new RHINO seismic drilling system is a real-time subsurface measurement technology that provides high resolution rock mass data through vibration measurements and IoT sensors,” Melbourne explains.

“This enables accurate detection of fault, fractures and joint spacing, in addition to many grade indicators and blast critical measurements.”

Kallestad regards subsurface evaluation as an area of mining that has seen limited innovation up until recent years.

He says the tempo of drill and blast activities has previously meant there has not been sufficient time to adequately characterise the bench prior to blasting.

An assumption of rock homogeneity and uniform blast hole spacing has, therefore, been the default way for mining companies to operate. DataCloud is changing this view by providing real-time characterisation of the bench during drilling, and prior to blasting.

Kallestad believes the technology has the potential to be a game changer, as it holds methods for unlocking significant improvements in the industry’s economic and environmental profiles.

“We are giving them high resolution information into their block model. We anticipate companies will use that information to blast better and sort ore and waste more efficiently,” Kallestad says.

“They will process less waste, discard less ore and get better fragmentations – that’s where Orica comes in with the blasting know how.”

DataCloud fits seamlessly into modern mining with its blend of expertise and the technology platform, but Kallestad remains humble about the company’s role in the broader landscape.

“We see our piece as part of a larger ecosystem in which we provide high-resolution, real-time rock mass data that feeds into everything that happens downstream. We are giving clients a more granular understanding of their orebody, and then they can choose to disrupt themselves at a time and in a manner best for their operations,” Kallestad concludes.

This article also appears in the August edition of Australian Mining. 

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