Australian agency wins award for ‘big data’ prospecting tool

By on 02/11/2016
Karol Czarnota, Senior Geoscientist – Australian lithosphere studies team leader at Geoscience Australia

An Australian public agency has won a national Public Sector Innovation Award for its use of ‘Big Data’ techniques in a digital mapping tool that highlights areas likely to contain large deposits of valuable minerals – including several ‘greenfield’ areas which mining companies haven’t previously explored.

Geoscience Australia, the country’s agency for geoscience research and geospatial information, won the ‘Engaging with the Edge’ award for its Mineral Potential Mapper system. Karol Czarnota, who leads the organisation’s Mineral Potential of Australia section, explained that his team had brought together data from many geoscientific databases – gathered over the years by various organisations and scientific specialisms – then analysed the full dataset to identify areas likely to contain nickel (Ni), copper (Cu) and the platinum-group elements (PGEs).

Czarnota’s team brought together a range of government experts, including geochemists and geophysicists. Encouraging specialists from various fields to work on an integrated product wasn’t easy, Czarnota told Global Government Forum, but having a “clear focus on what are we trying to achieve and what the problem is we’re focusing on has been a great boost.”

Czarnota urged other public servants not to “be afraid to go out on the edge and try something new.”

“We’re basically changing the way people classically explore for things; and when you do something new, there is always a certain amount of criticism and reservation,” he said. “But once you do it and you show people that this is a useful way forward, they realise its benefits.”

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The mapper was created in a bid to address a decline in the rate of major new mineral resource discoveries over the past decade.

Many of the areas where prospecting is straightforward have already been thoroughly explored, Czarnorta explained. “One of the key impediments to mineral exploration success has been the fact that about 80% of Australia is covered by a blanket of sediments and weathered rock,” he said. “So the reason this project was conceived was in order to be able to attract exploration to those areas and essentially find whole new regions where people haven’t classically mined for the type of metals we’ve been looking for – in this case, copper and platinum group elements.”

Few major deposits of such valuable metals have been found in Australia. But given the country’s favourable geology, Geoscience Australia believes that major PGE resources may lie beneath the rock blanket.

The Public Sector Innovation Awards are run by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) ACT division, in conjunction with the Public Sector Innovation Network.

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See also:

Australian charity regulator’s digital service wins 99% takeup

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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