Integrated Exploration Platform: Innovative data interpretation support for mineral exploration

As surface riches run out, mineral deposits are increasingly sought undercover.  To address this challenge, state government agencies have been investing heavily in data collection and release them freely to the explorers operating in their jurisdiction.  Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) collects and releases a large range of geological, geophysical and geochemical datasets as well as derivative products such as 3D geological models and mineral prospectivity maps.   Recently, through WA government’s Royalties for Regions Exploration Incentive Scheme, GSWA built a strong collaborative partnership with UWA for research and development to support and stimulate exploration activities in WA.

In collaboration with GSWA, a team of researchers from the School of Earth and Environment is developing the Integrated Exploration Platform (IEP), a GIS based software platform that aims to support robust and consistent geological interpretation of GSWA data which will result in improving the quality of 3D geological models.  Understanding complex subsurface geology using a range of sparse geoscientific measurements and observations is a challenging and subjective task, thus leads to highly uncertain interpretation.  The IEP aims to provide innovative tools to maximise human ability to see geology in data by using advanced visualisation and human-data interface technologies; and to improve consistency and robustness of interpretation through an interpretation decision support system based on automated image analysis and pattern matching.  These goals will be realised through geology equivalent spelling and grammar checkers for interpretation, where an automated engine provides data evidence and geological consistency assessments to improve the confidence in structural and lithological interpretation.

This research is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant (partner organisation-GSWA), and other collaborating organisations include Monash and Western Mining Services Pty Ltd.  The scope of this project will also offer postgraduate training opportunities for students from computer vision and machine learning backgrounds to build expertise in geoscientific data analysis.

The research team at UWA has been building strong inter-disciplinary capabilities integrating computer science and geoscience over the past six years, resulting in a unique environment for the training of researchers and students from computational backgrounds to be immersed into geoscience communities in academia and industry.   The team focuses on innovative algorithm development, interface and workflow design, and their delivery to end users in the resource industry as software products.