PDAC Behind Proposal to Submit Exploration Assessment Results in Digital Format
The Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines added nearly 5,000 diamond drill holes between March 2013 and September 2015, a total of over 1.4 million metres of drilling to its Ontario Drill Hole Database (ODHD) database. Using simple assumptions, this would require nearly 1,500 person-days of work and over $750,000 to compile the archived data into a cohesive database.
This database, compiled from PDF or paper assessment report documents, illustrates the vast amount of geological knowledge that is deemed hard to access due to poor data management systems. There must be a better way to submit geological assessment report data.
Moreover, drilling, albeit the most expensive type of exploration, is not nearly as representative of the volume of assessment work submitted, which is primarily geophysics and geochemistry for which the issue of proper data management is even more critical.
There IS a better way
The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) believes that discovery rates can increase if the type, quality, quantity and accessibility of geoscience data available to companies and stakeholders is improved. The Exploration Assessment Data Digital Format (EADDF) is a set of guidelines culminating from a three-year effort, created to address this data management issue. The EADDF Guidelines propose a national standard for digital assessment report data submission.
The purpose is to use these guidelines as a framework for discussion with the various mining jurisdictions and stakeholders across the country. PDAC hopes that among all the provinces and territories a few early adopters will volunteer to implement such a proposal. To this end, PDAC assembled a group of subject matter experts from different geoscience disciplines to act as champions for diamond drilling, geochemistry, geology and geophysics data guidelines.
Four principles guided the working group while creating these standards:
- Simplicity: Junior companies and prospectors may lack the resources to satisfy complex assessment requirements.
- Durability: Formats should be readable 30 years from now.
- Extensibility: Programs and standards evolve but must remain compatible with older formats
- Originality: Data collection is forward looking. Historical data will not be considered.
PDAC’s ultimate goal with respect to this proposal is to encourage jurisdictions to adopt a common set of guidelines (and ultimately regulations) to facilitate the submission of exploration assessment data in a digital format and in a consistent manner.
Why do we need this?
Canada’s share of global non-ferrous exploration budgets fell by more than 20 per cent in 2007 to around 14 per cent in 2015. If iron ore exploration budgets are included, Canada has also fallen behind Australia for the first time in 15 years and is no longer able to claim being the top destination for exploration investment globally (see www.minexconsulting.com).
With respect to exploration effectiveness, Canada also ranks below Australia. From 2001 to 2011 Canada’s exploration spending increased tenfold, while the discovery rate only increased around five times, resulting in 50 per cent lower performance than previous decades. In addition, Canada’s return on exploration investment was only 0.77 for every dollar spent between 2005 and 2014, while Australia’s was 0.97.
There are a number of variables affecting the discovery performance of companies exploring in Canada, including the greater costs of exploration at depth and in remote areas. However, one key variable affecting discovery performance is the availability of geoscience information to assist with land acquisition and targeting decisions.
Current digital data submission requirements create a problem for compilation initiatives. PDAC proposes a simple yet comprehensive solution that requires exploration companies and other claim holders to submit their assessment results in a simple text file with a standard structure and the minimum metadata to evaluate the quality of the results.
This is not meant to replace the assessment report that is mandated by all provincial and territorial jurisdictions and usually submitted as a PDF formatted document, but to complement the traditional report with results that are easy to submit and easy to compile.
Creating a Canada-wide reporting system
Canadian jurisdictions have wide-ranging requirements for prospectors, mineral exploration companies and mining corporations to submit digital data in exchange for assessment credits. At one end of the spectrum, some jurisdictions have no requirements at all, or more frequently, only require submission of a PDF version of the assessment report in addition to the paper document. Some jurisdictions require all data be submitted in digital format, including the PDF report, and may list the type of files that are acceptable, and in one case, includes some metadata requirements.
However, none of the jurisdictions actually specify any minimal standards for data submission such as what table and field names should be included and how the metadata should be organized. For subsequent users of the assessment data, integrating information embedded in PDF files with existing exploration databases is difficult and time consuming.
The guidelines presented here, will facilitate the submission of assessment data in digital form with hopes of improving data sharing, exploration efficiency and discovery rates.
Although no jurisdictions are currently implementing the EADDF format there has been considerable interest manifested in various jurisdictions. Meanwhile the Geoscience Committee and PDAC recommend that exploration organizations submit their assessment results using the guidelines in the EADDF document and provide the working group with feedback on the process. This will build more practical experience in the implementation of the format which will be very useful to mining jurisdictions trying to implement the standard at an institutional level.
About this author
Charles Beaudry, M.Sc., P.Geo., géo., is Chair of PDAC’s Geoscience Committee. The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) is the leading voice of the mineral exploration and development community. With over 7,500 members around the world, PDAC’s mission is to promote a globally responsible, vibrant and sustainable minerals industry. As the trusted representative of the sector, PDAC encourages best practices in technical, operational, environmental, safety and social performance.