IBM Brings Revolutionary New Technology to Canadian Mine
Six years ago, IBM Watson gained fame for winning Jeopardy. Today, it is working in virtually all industries to outthink the world’s biggest challenges. Watson can understand, reason, learn and interact, providing insight and transforming experiences.
Now, Watson is learning to think like a Geologist.
In March 2017, IBM announced that they are working with one of the world’s largest gold mining companies, Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., to bring IBM Watson technology to the Canadian mining industry for the first time. Geologists will be using the cognitive technology of Watson to analyze vast amounts of data—from drilling reports to geological survey information—to help determine the best places to explore next and achieve exploration targets faster, with a reduced environmental impact.
This video explains the significance of this work:
Following is an interview with Mark Fawcett, Partner, Energy-Global Business Services, IBM, discussing Watson and its impact on mining operations, and the potential it holds for the future.
How is Watson specifically being utilized at the Red Lake mine?
At the Red Lake mine, what IBM doing specifically is in exploration, in order to yield high gold deposit targets. The way Watson works is it ingests all the information and all the data (both structured and unstructured) that we’re receiving from Goldcorp, and with this data, we’re then educating Watson on what the data means, it’s importance and relevance, how it maps through GIS, where historical gold deposits are physically located and the indicators that led to the its’ detection, and many other things. We then teach Watson how to think like a geologist to use what it has been taught, so Watson then has the ability to use that information, not just on an individual plot of land, but across the entire organization and start to yield more results.
Outside of improving target exploration efforts, can we expect to see Watson utilized in other ways? If so, what might be Watson’s next task to further improve mining in Canada?
Outside of improving target exploration, we see Watson potentially assisting Goldcorp within four additional categories: the grinding circuit, the leaching circuit, operations and health and safety.
In terms of their grinding circuit, Watson can streamline how to operate the grinding machines in a more effective way. Watson can also analyze and improve the leaching circuit process to extract gold from ore more efficiently.
In terms of overall mining operations, the operations plan is the heart of the project and determines how all facets of the process are realized. IBM believes Watson can provide insights to make operations more streamlined and more efficient.
Also in health and safety, Watson can provide insights for workers to operate within a safer environment. In addition, we believe that Watson can be used to lessen the impact on tailings ponds and have more effective use of water.
What sort of insights is Goldcorp expecting to receive out of Watson’s data analyses?
Though Goldcorp would be better to answer this question, what we’re hoping for is that they see greater exploration insights and greater yields based on those insights.
To add to the above, when can we expect to see some of Watson’s insights?
We worked with Goldcorp to develop an evolutionary roadmap where we have a number of stages throughout the project where we expect to see different levels of insight. In short, we expect to see results as soon as three to six months. As we get further along and data starts to come in, we’ll be able to ask Watson more detailed questions, and with the new data, Watson will be able to provide greater insights, streamlining the process even further.
What will this announcement mean for the future of mining in Canada?
Ultimately, miners don’t control their commodity costs, but what they can control is their operational costs. Being able to update their operations and being able to operate more efficiently means they will be able to see greater margins.
Will Watson technology actually be physically present at the Red Lake mine, or is it being utilized through cloud technology?
I’m sure many people, when they imagine Watson, they think of a massive computer taking up space and imposing a presence onsite, but actually, Watson is available through cloud technology. To harness the power of Watson and really take full advantage of the augmented intelligence, being able to access all that power through the IBM Cloud just magnifies the full power of Watson. It is possible to have a Watson system onsite, but it is not a requirement to be able to use Watson.
How will this partnership create less of an environmental impact?
Besides the operational and exploration targeting benefits of using Watson, lessening the environmental impact is another key benefit to Watson and there are a few ways it can do that. First of all, Goldcorp will be yielding results through Watson of where to drill with certainty and precision, so this will lessen the amount of times they will drill, leaving much less of an environmental impact. Second, we can then start to ask Watson questions and impose parameters upon Watson. For example, if Goldcorp wants to yield the greatest amount of gold while avoiding vulnerable environments, we can impose environmental constraints on Watson and set those parameters to lessen the environmental impact from mining. Finally, Watson can be used in in the analysis of tailing ponds and in the most effective use of water to lessen the impact on the environment.