How scientists are using big data to discover rare mineral deposits

Searching the earth for valuable mineral deposits has never been easy, but big data is allowing scientists to gleam the signal from the noise.

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Big data is shaking up the ways our entrepreneurs start their businesses, our healthcare professionals deliver care, and our financial services render their transactions. Now, big data’s reach has expanded so far that it’s revolutionizing the way our scientist search for gas, oil, and even valuable minerals.

Searching under the surface of the earth for valuable mineral deposits has never been easy, but by exploiting recent innovations in big data that allow scientist to gleam the signal from the noise, experts are now capable of discovering and categorizing new minerals more efficiently than ever before.

A new type of mining

By mining big data, or by crunching huge sums of numbers to predict trends, scientist are now capable of mapping mineral deposits in new and exciting ways. Network theory, which has been used with great success in fields ranging from healthcare to national security, is one big data tool that scientist are coming to rely on more and more.

As they outlined in their research paper, researchers recently categorized minerals as nodes and the coexistence of different types of minerals as “lines”, or connections. By visualizing their data like this, they created an extraordinarily useful mapping process which could help determine which areas had a higher likelihood of possessing large mineral deposits.

While researchers used to suffer from limitations on how much data they could process in a given time period, today’s computers can effortlessly handle the math while the researchers are freed up to focus on more specialized task. As minerals often form in clusters under the surface of the earth, researchers can tap into their computer’s predictive analytical capabilities to gain a better understanding of which areas may be dry and which may be literal goldmines.

While geologist used to often rely on luck when figuring out where mineral deposits lay, they can now take their fates into their own hands. The benefits of big data aren’t constrained to mere minerals, either; scientist have successfully used big data in similar fashions to find deposits of gold and oil, as well as other resources.

Using data to lower cost

While geologist, miners, and virtually everyone else seeking to make a living off of the earth’s minerals have relied on data in the past, only recently have innovations made the process of using big data so cheap that it’s available to nearly everyone. Goldcorp’s CEO stunned the industry in 2000 when he released the company’s proprietary data to the public in an effort to harness the public’s innovative capabilities.

By offering a prize of a little over a million dollars, Goldcorp ended up discovering more than $6 billion in underground deposits, entirely because of contributors to his competition who relied on big data to map the area and find the valuable treasures stowed away below. As big data’s potential continues to grow, crowdsourcing operations like these will become more commonplace, as companies such as QP software, come to realize the incredible value of their data and understand that they can use the public to make use of it.

The sophisticated application of big data to create 3D maps is only one of the ways its fundamentally reshaping the prospecting industry. As companies develop new and greater abilities to categorize the minerals they detect underground, mining operations will find it cheaper and easier than ever before to locate the highly-valued prizes they seek. These kinds of developments will come to fill in the gaps that exist with current data-analysis techniques, to the great benefit of the industry and its consumers.

As big data’s ability to network and visualize huge sums of information continues to grow, more mineral deposits which have never before been unearthed are likely to be discovered. As advances in chemistry make it easier to determine the makeup of the minerals they uncover, companies will rapidly come to discover deposits in areas which they previously overlooked, or which earlier test determined to be unworthy of their time.

Big data is showing no signs of slowing down as it continues on its crusade to reshape the world as we know it. By tapping into this wondrous phenomenon, industries of all stripes are revolutionizing how they collect and use information to their benefit. While big data doesn’t hold the answer to every problem facing the world, its already made itself invaluable to the public, and will likely continue to grow.

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