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Exploring the future with new 3D software

A LOCAL mineral geology consultancy is making a splash among some of the biggest names in mineral exploration – including BHP and Rio Tinto. Husband and wife team Julian and Susan Vearncombe of Fremantle’s Vearncombe & Associates are capitalising on what they claim is the future of exploration with their revolutionary 3D spatial distribution software, SpaDiS.

SpaDiS does away with the practice of using exploration statistics from other sites to try and predict where deposits will be by using known patterns in geology at deposit sites to draw a 3D picture of the mineral distribution.

“If you ask how tall a group of people are, someone will say ‘they’re average height’,” Dr Julian Vearncombe said. “But you lose the quality that made it special and measurable in the first place by taking an average like that. Mineral deposits are distinctly ‘unaverage’, so to make a generalisation using statistics isn’t efficient.”

The initial success of the software’s 2D version taught the company two valuable lessons, according to Dr Vearncombe.

“After recovering the initial cost we learnt a lot about what the industry wanted,” he said.

“It wanted a 3D version of the product and it didn’t want another piece of software sitting on the shelf.”

Combating the possibility of SpaDiS 3D sitting around mining company offices gathering dust also offered the opportunity to add value to the software (and the consultancy service the company is built upon). SpaDiS 3D isn’t sold to clients, but operated in-house to crunch the data provided, which results in a report containing everything the client needs to know.

“Managers wanted less software and more deliverables,” Dr Vearncombe said.

So where to now for SpaDiS? The current task is to find an investor to develop commercialisation of the product, and the directors already have flown to the UK to meet with a potential investor. Even though that deal fell through, international action seems likely.

“Going public has been debated,” Dr Vearncombe said. “We’re just looking for the right investors to go in with. Half of our consultancy business has come from overseas and most SpaDiS sales were offshore.

“In the end, 75 per cent of sales are going to be overseas. It’s just a question of the size of the market.”

The Vearncombes believe technologies like SpaDiS represent the next generation of commercial exploration, and the profitable companies won’t be the ones with enormous tracts of land and arsenals of machinery, but those that can get the most cost-effective use out of their data.

“In the past it was a question of assets like land under management,” Dr Vearncombe said.

“From now on it’ll be who can explore better for less money.”

The lynchpin of that issue, Dr Vearncombe believes, is technology and better use of it.

And with the mineral giants of the world falling over themselves to compete now that international markets are down, the future for products like SpaDiS 3D looks bright.

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