This week I had the opportunity to attend the 8th World Conference of Sampling and Blending in Perth and I thought I’d share my thoughts and takeaways from the event.
If you are drilling, mining or processing then most of the data you deal with is underpinned by the process of sampling, blending and analysing rocks.
Getting it right is just about the most important thing you will ever do.
That sounds like a big call but if you don’t sample your drillhole data correctly then all the analysis done from that point on will be flawed. Sampling Error and Analytical Error (errors in the laboratory) represent some of the biggest risks to a project. Likewise, Sampling and Analytical Errors when sampling plant feeds affect reconciliations and prevent corrective actions in mining to be applied.
One of our tools to prevent (or at least understand) Sampling and Analytical Errors is a QAQC program. QAQC for resource evaluation is mandated by codes such as JORC, NI43-101 and it is usually applied to grade control and plant sampling. QAQC usually involves performing several different tests during the sampling and analysis process to ensure that the sample is representative, and is not contaminated so that the results are repeatable. Tests such as these, give the Geologist a measure of confidence in the results and allow use in their resource modelling.
Geobank 2017 was developed to enable the Geologist to manage their QAQC program more easily and with greater flexibility.
The conference was made up of a mix of theoretical and applied presentations and whilst I was more interested in the applied presentations, it is important to understand the fundamentals.
Pretty much the entire literature on sampling was based on fundamentals developed by Pierre Gy in the 50’s and 60’s. Gy’s work culminated in the Theory of Sampling (TOS) and much like Special Relativity and E=mc2 in Physics the Formula (Gy’s Formula) was referenced in most of the papers presented.
There were some great presentations by two giants of sampling, Dr Francis Pitard and Dr Dominic Fracois-Bongarcon that showed advances in the Theory of Sampling in the last few years. I was particularly excited to see Dr Pitard in action again after attending a 5-day course he ran for Normandy Mining back in the early 2000’s when I was learning my craft as a Geologist. This course changed the way I approached my job as a Geologist and it was great to see that he is still active and advancing the field today.
Another presentation that I really enjoyed was a key note on Olympic Dam by Kathy Ehrig. I have seen a number of Kathy’s presentations at different conferences and have always enjoyed them. Kathy has been doing geometallurgy (since before it was a thing) and the practical application of geometallurgical sampling and analysis to planning and mining at Olympic Dam is inspirational. One cool thing I learned in this presentation was that Olympic Dam is the second largest (known) concentration of base metals on the planet beaten only by Norilsk in Russia. I wasn’t aware of this unique position for Norilsk and seeing as they are a Micromine client, I was pretty impressed to find that out.
As well as attending the presentations, the conference had an exhibition area. I was able to wander around in breaks chatting with vendors from laboratories, suppliers of robotic lab equipment, drilling companies and downhole analysis companies.
Sodern supply a downhole Pulsed Neutron logging device called FastGradeTM that is being used at the BHP Billiton Iron Ore operations in the Pilbara to determine the grade of elements in the surrounding rock. A paper by BHPB staff showed how they are using these tools to supplement and validate traditional laboratory analysis in exploration and blast holes.
Another nice aspect of conference attendance is the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. It is very rare that you will go to a Geology conference and not catch up with someone you used to work with or meet someone who is mates with someone you know. This conference was no different and I bumped into friends from Lihir in PNG, Mt Isa and Alcoa as well as catching up with an ex-housemate of my wife (before we got married of course).
The Sampling and Blending conference probably isn’t for everyone, but it definitely applies to what we do in Geobank. We are more than just the repository for the data collected because of our QAQC tools. These tools allow Geologists to analyse the performance of their sampling and analytical programs over time and more importantly keep that record for the life of a project so that anyone can audit and validate the data for future studies.
Geobank Product Strategy Manager