Seequent’s software tools of the future, enhanced by cloud-based technology, AI and advanced workflows
In anticipation for the upcoming Mineral Resource Estimation Conference, we spoke with Mike Stewart and Alex Boucher about the exciting work underway at Seequent, supporting Resource Geologists with market-leading technology to create and maintain robust resource estimates.
Can you share with our audience a little bit about your career journey so far?
Alex Boucher (AB) – I am Alexandre Boucher, based in Denver, Colorado. I have a PhD in geostatistics from Stanford University, where I spent three years teaching and doing research. After my experience in academia, I founded AR2Tech, where for more than 10 years my team and I built software and technology for the mining, energy, and environmental industries. In 2021, AR2Tech was acquired by Seequent. I am now the Technical Director at Seequent leading the integration of new AI and subsurface modelling technology within the Seequent product portfolio.
Mike Stewart (MS) - I'm Mike Stewart, Technical Domain Expert - Geomodelling with Seequent, based in the Christchurch office. I've come into resource estimation and geostatistics from a fairly conventional mining industry background - from a geology degree, working my way through various roles into resource estimation and resource management. I spent 10 years consulting out of Perth on applied geostatistics and mining geology. In 2014, the consultancy I was working with was acquired by Seequent. My role has changed from being a hands-on-practitioner in resource estimation, to designing and building resource estimation software.
What is an interesting story from your time working in resource estimation/geostatistics?
(MS) - You tend to remember the things that have caused you the maximum embarrassment: in a past role as a Resource Geologist prior to Seequent, I was once responsible for having to retract a publicly reported resource statement due to a spreadsheet double-counting error. It taught me the value of keeping your data out of spreadsheets.
(AB) – While teaching at Stanford University, I was able to apply geostatistics in settings outside of oil, gas and mining. For example, finding a lesion in a brain scan or mapping the rapid urbanisation of developing countries. I was also involved in mapping windspeed for the green energy transition. It was interesting to see how mining technologies can be used in other fields.
You are both travelling to Perth for the Mineral Resource Estimation Conference. What are you most looking forward to when attending the event?
(AB) – I am most excited about being a part of the Conference’s first panel discussion, Geological Modelling Software: Development and Limitations. This is a topic I have been thinking about for some time and since joining Seequent my thinking on this topic has evolved further. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts, learning from my peers and reconnecting with my networks in Perth.
(MS) – I lived in Perth for 11 years and so I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and acquaintances. I’ve been involved in resource estimation for more than 25 years and I know a lot of people. This is my professional whānau (Māori word for family) and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody at the conference.
Excitingly, it’s a new offering in the conference landscape too, the first time there's been a conference specifically for this incredibly important discipline within mining.
Leapfrog Edge has been in the market now for ~5 years. What was Seequent’s ambition for developing this software solution for resource geologists?
(MS) – We recognised that the existing software solutions for resource estimation demanded a high level of software expertise in order to run them. Not only did the existing solutions require knowledge of geostatistics and applied resource estimation, but also a detailed knowledge of how the software functioned.
With Leapfrog Edge our ambition was to make the process of resource estimation easier and more transparent, bringing a modern and intuitive, workflow driven, solution focused, software to the market – similar to the experience users are familiar with and love in Leapfrog. We wanted to provide users with a better experience and enable them to focus more on the outputs, and less on the process.
We also wanted to make sure that resource estimation was tightly integrated to the underlying geological models. By coupling estimation tightly with geological modelling in Leapfrog Geo, we've been able to bring the benefits of dynamic linked workflows, so that the process of creating and updating models is simplified for our users.
In 2021, Seequent acquired AR2Tech. What were the objectives in making this acquisition?
(MS) – AR2Tech had an extremely talented team with a lot of horsepower. The acquisition provided Seequent with state-of-the-art geostatistical algorithms, a great technology stack, and IP for complex geospatial problem solving, that complemented its geological modelling solutions and workflows. More importantly, we were acquiring a company whose vision of how geostatistics will be delivered was very closely aligned to Seequent’s ambitions and vision in that space. The fit was excellent.
Alex, as the Founder of AR2Tech, what benefits and opportunities did you see in joining Seequent?
(AB) – As Mike mentioned, our visions were aligned. We were also aware that Seequent was working on a cloud-enabled ecosystem, Seequent Evo. For those who haven’t heard of it, Seequent Evo is a flexible, evolving ecosystem of solutions connected through seamless integrations.
We had recognised that operationalising algorithms in the cloud is very difficult, you need a team that goes beyond just geostatistics and software. You need people that understand security requirements, storage requirements, data transfer, cloud infrastructure and so on. We could not undertake this work on our own. By working with Seequent, we now have access to broader, customer-centric resources that enable us to deliver new technology to the market.
There was also the exciting prospect of applying our technology to many other industries – as Seequent services civil engineering, environment and energy – lots of opportunities to help our clients to make better subsurface decisions. We have seen incredible things happen when our technology is in the hands of users and Seequent is the best partner to build upon and then distribute these benefits to as many customers as possible.
How will Seequent provide its software tools in the future? What will it look like and what are the benefits to the professionals that use them?
(MS) – The cloud will become even more important. We all know that cloud solutions are the way of the future, and are what we’re all collectively working towards as a sector.
It’s commonly understood that, to enable collaboration, the cloud is where data should reside and be shared from. The cloud is also the logical place to execute computationally - intensive tasks through high performance computing. Many advanced geostatistical algorithms are computationally heavy, but before you can harness cloud workflows, you need to develop and implement the infrastructure to support it.
(AB) – As deposits are getting bigger and more complex, we are also demanding more automation and advanced workflows. It is also well understood that good decisions require a good understanding of the underlying uncertainty of the deposits. Once you put all these requirements together, scale, automation and uncertainty, you quickly come to the conclusion that a desktop solution is not sufficient to solve these challenges.
As Mike mentioned, this is where Evo becomes a foundational piece of the future of geostatistics at Seequent. As a scalable platform it can scale up to meet the modern demands of subsurface modelling, that can be of modelling variograms capturing the resource uncertainty. Edge does not have to do everything; it can be elevated by cloud services through Seequent Evo.
Beyond adding to Seequent computational capabilities, the cloud is also the solution for accessible data storage, improved collaboration and connecting workflows across products and disciplines.
We believe that a powerful cloud platform which goes beyond virtualising applications, will set our customers up for long-term success and improve our rate of innovation. As the platform and its ecosystem matures, it will create a powerful network effect enabling the next generations of workflows.
What is next for Leapfrog Edge? And what new capabilities can your customers look forward to?
(MS) – We're continuing to invest heavily in the development of Leapfrog Edge and we’re actively working on growing its capabilities. Based on user feedback, our current focus is on improving the flexibility of Edge around creating and managing large or more complex estimates, through a well-designed software interface. Our aim is to be the best in-market solution for creating and maintaining robust linear resource estimates. That of course doesn't mean we think that estimation should stop at linear estimation, which is why we're building this capability to provide advanced functionality through the cloud and through hybrid workflows that will connect desktop and cloud.
What’s next for Seequent Evo?
(MS) – We have a large body of work underway, connecting our current products through Seequent Evo. We are also looking at how we can help address key customer challenges through componentised functionality, and are currently also working on the issue of block model management and on delivering a cloud-hosted automated variography solution, powered by Seequent Evo. We've also got a pipeline of advanced algorithms that we’re aiming to unleash as the capabilities of the platform mature.
(AB) –Once the data and the products connectivity are in place, Seequent Evo will allow us to build new, efficient workflows. I am particularly interested in leveraging Evo for uncertainty modelling and decision-making. Resource estimation is intrinsically difficult yet critical, but by capturing the uncertainty of our models we can make better decisions that maximise the upside while minimising the downside. Gaining in efficiency is particularly important as mining contributions to society will accelerate; the energy transition depends on reliable supply of critical minerals.
How can delegates at the upcoming Mineral Resource Estimation Conference learn more about Leapfrog Edge and its exciting capabilities?
(MS) – We're hosting a workshop prior to the conference on May 23rd, Introduction to Resource Estimation using Leapfrog Edge. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet Seequent’s geostatistical experts. Alex and I will be there, and our Edge representatives from around the world will also be in attendance. If you’d like to learn more about what we're doing with Edge, join the workshop.
We'll also have demos and presentations at the conference, as well as product previews and some other surprises! Join a large contingent of our knowledgeable people at Seequent’s booth – Booth no. 2. Make sure you stop by, the team would love to have a chat.
Join the team at Seequent at AusIMM's inaugural Mineral Resource Estimation Conference.