OZ Minerals offers $1m reward for next SA discovery

A Prominent Hill worker. Image: OZ Minerals.

OZ Minerals has put $1 million on the line for the geologists or data scientists who help find its next discovery near the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia.

The Adelaide-based company has partnered with innovation platform Unearthed to launch the online crowdsourcing explorer challenge.

OZ Minerals is giving geologists and data scientists around the world the opportunity to develop approaches to discover its next exploration targets.

The challenge aims to test how the global mining and resources industry leverages data science to its potential in the future.

Participants will develop solutions for the duration of the 10-week online competition and compete for $1 million in prize money.

They will also have the chance to have their winning model tested in real life, with the top targets scheduled to be drilled next year.

OZ Minerals chief executive officer Andrew Cole said the company had taken an approach from outside of the 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,” Cole said.

“The challenge presents a number of benefits, and importantly, helps us gain new insights and find new approaches to push the boundaries of our geological understanding of the area.”

Prominent Hill, which has been mined since 2009, is within the Mount Woods exploration tenements in northern South Australia.

The competition site is the remaining land of the Mount Woods exploration tenements that surround the operation.

Unearthed founding director Justin Strharsky said mineral exploration was difficult and economic mineral deposits were rare.

“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.

“The explorer challenge will speed up the exploration lifecycle and allow us to analyse information at a much faster rate than before.

“This competition represents a fundamental change in approach to problem-solving. Data science techniques can be used for exploration and many other challenges faced by the industry.”

Cole said the challenge was a continuation of OZ Minerals’ digital transformation journey, which started two years ago when the company migrated its exploration data to the Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud.

“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,” Cole said.

The competition opens in February next year and the winners will be announced in June.