🏠 Home

CorePlan Blog

Exploration Teams

Remote field management: How technology is helping to rethink one of exploration’s longest-standing challenges

July 25, 2023

Remote field management: How technology is helping to rethink one of exploration’s longest-standing challenges

For Exploration Managers
Digital Transformation
Written by
Megan Gammie

One of mineral exploration’s biggest drawcards - and challenges - is the potential to travel to every corner of the world in pursuit of discovery.

The problem?

It’s not necessarily affordable or practical to send the entire team to site for a project. So, exploration managers and support teams may be located in a head office whilst the field team work on-site anywhere from hundreds of kilometres away, to a different state, country, hemisphere - even a completely different time zone.

This makes it much harder to keep in touch with the team and stay informed about what’s happening with the day-to-day operations in the field. What may begin as a small issue can quickly escalate if it is unable to be resolved until a scheduled check-in meeting - where someone always has to draw the short straw with the time zone differences. 

Every exploration project does things differently

If you’re at a larger company, you might be operating in this way across multiple projects spread out across the globe, each with a unique way of doing things and a region-specific set of compliance requirements.

And of course - you’re accountable for everything on-site, but you don’t necessarily know what’s going on at any given time!

This is a problem that’s not going to go anywhere anytime soon. Explorers are having to search further and further afield to find the next orebody, and demand for future minerals is only going to grow.

So, let’s talk about it. What does this look and feel like for modern exploration managers, - and what are some potential strategies that might help to mitigate some of the pitfalls of operating this way now and in the future?

The status quo of remote field management

Is this your team?

  • You’re forced to rely on endless email threads, spreadsheets and long meetings that could have been an email to keep up with what’s happening on-site.
  • When you do get that valuable meeting time, it’s not being effectively utilised because you’re troubleshooting problems or data issues that happened in the past - rather than exploring ideas and preventing future issues from getting in the way of keeping the drills turning.
  • You feel like you’re missing opportunities - but you can’t put your finger on what they are exactly. 

There’s no doubt that this is an inefficient way to work, and it creates hold-ups for both sides who are just trying to get the job done.

But what other things could you be missing along the way?

What you’ll miss out on if you’re operating this way

Missed opportunities down the hole

Sometimes a hole can throw you a complete curveball and reveal an unexpected opportunity. But acting on this can be incredibly difficult when the people capturing and analysing the data are working remotely. It takes a long time to enter and share this data between the two teams, let alone take the necessary steps to re-adjust and action the hole plan before it’s too late. Go too slow and you’ve missed your chance - or you have to spend a lot more money than you otherwise would have to be able to act on what the ground is telling you.

Similarly, the following problems can be exacerbated by the distance, impacting your team’s ability to execute the exploration program to its maximum effectiveness:

  • Delays to the drill: issues that can delay the drill can be missed when the team is working in silos. Equipment isn’t delivered on time, holes aren’t prepped and ready for the drill or communication issues cause the team to accidentally deviate from the plan.
  • Less collaboration: opportunities to work more efficiently aren’t as obvious when they’re not in front of you.
  • Re-inventing the wheel: projects operating as independent units with their own processes and procedures, rather than leveraging the learnings of each unit to empower collective efficiencies. 

But is there a way to improve how you operate - without having to relocate your entire team to site?

Let’s explore some solutions.

Potential solutions to the remote management problem

Real-time field data transfer

One of the key difficulties with trying to manage exploration programs from afar is not having the tools to be able to react as things happen in the field. You may have to wait until the site team are available to compile and send the data to you, to be able to make an informed decision.

The solution is real-time data transfer - but it needs to be collaborative and feature an audit trail and version control to reflect best practice data management - which is why Excel isn’t up to the task. 

Real-time data transfer allows exploration managers and support teams located in a head office to have immediate access to up-to-date information about the day-to-day operations in the field, any time of the day or night. By utilising technology such as cloud-based platforms and mobile applications, field teams can capture and transmit data instantly, and provide real-time visibility to the management team. This enables quicker decision-making, the ability to pre-empt issues, and better meeting where time can be spent analysing performance rather than getting up to speed on the status of the project.

I’ve written extensively about this on our exploration blog if you’d like to dive deeper!

Data visualisation

This transfer of data doesn’t work if it’s facilitated by using spreadsheets or email threads. It’s difficult to quickly understand the information when it’s written out in a long-form email or hidden in hundreds of Excel cells.

Analysing and understanding complex exploration data using data visualisation tools can greatly enhance the efficiency of remote field management. Visualising data in the field through interactive charts, maps, and dashboards enables exploration managers to gain insights more quickly and make informed decisions. 

Because visualisations are much more clear, it’s easier to keep everyone on the same page and enhance communication and collaboration.

Digital twins

A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical asset or system.

To date, digital twins have predominantly been utilised in production environments, but perhaps they hold great potential for exploration as well. 

Imagine a future where you could create a digital twin of your exploration project that would allow you to plan optimal drill hole orders, simulate the impact of breakdowns on the remainder of your project or even conduct virtual drilling scenarios using different rigs, drill bits or drillers. This information could help you to plan ahead and give your team a playbook on how to respond to any issues that could impact costs, production or sample quality.

The only challenge with this from an exploration perspective is that you can only predict what’s under the surface - you can’t know for sure until you’ve drilled it. Perhaps this might be where tools like AI can come into play to make predictions by populating it with drilling data as the exploration program unfolds. 

Here are a few different companies with exploration AI products that are worth watching in this space!

So you might be wondering - is there a middle ground and a way you can start integrating all of these things into your operations right now - not in 5, 10 or 15 years time?

An emerging digital solution for remote exploration program management

If you relate to any of the problems discussed in this blog; you probably feel like you’re constantly having to reinvent the wheel for every exploration campaign, your teams are operating in siloes and there’s no clear way to be sure exactly what’s happening in the field right now; it doesn’t have to be this way.

But the good news is that your team can get to a place where exploration campaigns are executed seamlessly from anywhere, and you can have complete visibility across what’s happening in the field in real time - without having to micromanage your team.

Using CorePlan Exploration Hub, your team can plan and execute exploration projects and project-specific workstreams across all of your jurisdictions, visualise and track the entire drill hole lifecycle, and facilitate instant data sharing between the field and office, regardless of where you are or what time it is.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having one digital space for coordinating drilling and field activities, scheduling rigs and managing logistics, you’ve come to the right place. Exploration Hub is here to help your team streamline remote communication, enhance collaboration, and empower your team to work towards the goal of discovery.

Find out more.

The future of remote field management starts now

Remote field management has long been a challenge for mineral exploration companies. However, recent advancements in technology and innovative approaches are paving the way forward for improving efficiency, effectiveness and collaboration in remote field management.

While there are still limitations and hurdles to overcome, there are existing tools designed to help exploration managers to optimise exploration programs, minimise delays, capture unexpected opportunities and increase the chance of discovery in even the most remote corners of the world.

The future of remote field management lies in embracing innovation and leveraging technology to unlock the full potential of mineral exploration. Are you ready to be a part of it?

More from our blog

About CorePlan

Book a Demo