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Frank Arnott Award honors exploration visionary

By Virginia Heffernan on September 23, 2015 News

Frank Arnott was a visionary geophysicist from the United Kingdom who developed techniques designed to maximize the value of multidisciplinary datasets.

A new award has been introduced to recognize innovation in visualizing and integrating exploration data.

Described as a ‘collaborative’ challenge, The Frank Arnott Award invites experienced geoscientists and undergraduates from around the world to work as part of a team to develop ways to improve exploration outcomes and workflow through data integration and visualization. Award winners will be recognized as part of Exploration 2017, October 21-25, 2017 in Toronto.

“The purpose of the award is twofold,” says Ken Witherly, president of Condor Consulting and a member of the award committee.  “One is to acknowledge Frank’s vision for multidisciplinary exploration that all who knew and worked with him could attest to. The other is to share some of the knowledge and excitement for the geosciences which Frank was known for.”

Frank Arnott was a visionary geophysicist from the United Kingdom who developed techniques - some of which are just coming into practice today - designed to maximize the value of multidisciplinary datasets. Arnott, who worked for two international mining and exploration companies (De Beers and Rio Tinto) and later commercialized 3D software called GeoExpress 2000, died in 2009.

Witherly said Arnott was concerned less with the underlying mathematics of how exploration models are generated and more with bringing together the geological, geochemical and geophysical results in a 3D environment to improve the display and interpretation of data in a thematic sense.

Witherly and his fellow committee members are aiming to raise $100,000 (CAD) through sponsorship to cover the award’s prizes and expenses, including travel costs for the finalists. They are almost halfway there, with a prize pool in excess of $40,000. Sponsors to date are Rio Tinto, Condor Consulting, Tensor Research and Geosoft.

Prizes will be awarded to the winning teams in each of two categories, apprentice (early career) and experienced, with a first, second and third prize winner in each category. The award is open to geoscientists in both industry and academia.

Each team will work on one of five data packages from districts with exploration potential. The data represent the Yukon Plateau (epithermal Au and porphyry Cu) and Quensel Trough (porphyry Cu-Au) in Canada; the Kevitsa deposit (layered ultramafic Ni-Cu-PGM) in Finland; and the Broken Hill (Proterozoic Ag- Pb-Zn) and Gawler Craton (Proterozoic IOCG and Au) districts in Australia.

Of the five data sets, four are in the public domain, while the fifth (Kevitsa) is a combination of data from the Finnish Geological Survey and information provided by mine owner First Quantum Minerals. The choice of districts was largely driven by the quality and accessibility of the datasets, but the teams are encouraged to seek additional data that contribute to their assessment.

A panel of independent judges, drawn from the international community, will evaluate submissions based on four criteria: innovation in data integration and visualization; significance in improving exploration outcomes; impacts on workflow and productivity; and collaboration by team members whose skills represent a mix of geophysics, geology and geochemistry.

“Tell us that we’re wrong. Tell us that what we thought was important is not important, but something else is,” Witherly encourages participants. “That level of investigation and innovation is what we are looking for.”

The datasets are available for download now and submissions are due on the last day of 2016. Finalists will receive their awards at a ceremony timed to coincide with Exploration 2017. They will also be encouraged to present their work at the decennial conference taking place in Toronto in September 2017.

“The award is designed to get people to work with the data and work with each other,” says Witherly. “That is complementary to Frank’s vision and passion. It’s a way of saying ‘well done, Frank’ and it’s very much where we need to go in our industry.”

For more information, visit The Frank Arnott Award.