OZ Minerals, Unearthed award $1m prize for exploration contest

First prize winenrs Team Guru: (L-R) Michael Rodda, Jesse Ober, Glen Willis.

OZ Minerals and resources-focused platform Unearthed have announced the winners for their Explorer Challenge, with the leading team securing $500,000.

The three-month competition gave participants the opportunity to develop new processes for mineral exploration to help improve discovery rates as deposits become more difficult to find.

Team Guru was awarded the $500,000 top prize for its ‘interpretable machine learning models for mineral exploration using geochemistry, geophysics and surface geology’ project. The three-person team comprised of Michael Rodda, Jesse Ober and Glen Willis.

Rodda served as the team’s data scientist, while Ober and Willis come from environmental science and process engineering backgrounds’ respectively.

The team was picked as the overall winner from over 1000 global participants who responded to Oz Minerals’ release of mining data from the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine.

OZ Minerals chief executive officer Andrew Cole said it had been a “truly remarkable” process to review the diverse range of solutions that were received for the competition.

“We needed to find fresh insights and ways of working smarter with our data,” Cole said. “The innovators who participated in the Explorer Challenge have provided approaches to mineral exploration that we never would have imagined internally, including ways to fuse datasets together, combining multiple layers of information, and making predictions based on the extensive datasets.”

Team Guru’s design will be tested at the site in a real-life conditions with an eye to drilling the top identified targets by the end of 2019. 

The second prize of $200,000 went to company DeepSightX for its “multidisciplinary approach” to target generation that combined expertise in AI and geoscience. The third prize of $100,000 was given to Cyency, which applied data science to pick the 10 best examples of candidate point estimates.

There were several smaller awards, including the $50,000 student team prize for deCODES, and four prizes of $25,000 in different categories, which were awarded to Avant Data Solutions, Team OreFox, Team Phar Lap, and SRK Consulting.

“Many industry professionals and mining companies are beginning to realise that their true competitive advantage in exploration is speed, not necessarily data or technological intellectual property,” said Unearthed industry lead – crowdsourcing, Holly Bridgwater. 

“I think that the ability that the crowd gives you to generate new ideas, develop solutions, and automate processes, is something that can make a big difference and provide that competitive advantage.”

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