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Shifting the norm: Could the Parker Challenge redefine how we communicate risk to investors and write our industry reporting codes?

· 1200 words, 5 minute read
We recently interviewed Graham Crook, Chief Advisor – Resource Development at Rio Tinto to discuss the unprecedented Parker Challenge which sees multiple practitioners create a resource estimate from the same base dataset and then apply a classification.
Estimates from the Challenge will be amalgamated, results compared and the winner announced at AusIMM’s upcoming Mineral Resource Estimation Conference 2023.


What do you think will be the key takeaways from The Parker Challenge?
The crux of the Challenge is going to be how variable the estimates are. What impact are the modelling, domaining and estimation parameter choices of different individual practitioners going to have on the final results? Is there a wide spread or do they all cluster close together? What level of uncertainty can be ascribed to estimators working on the same data?

The interpolation methods that we use have remained largely unchanged over the past 50 years. We use kriging, nearest neighbour, inverse distance interpolation methodologies. Are there new approaches that could challenge some of the traditional approaches to the dataset in this Challenge? On top of that, there are certainly different ways of implementing the more traditional interpolation techniques through software advances and it will be interesting to see the spectrum or range of approaches that the participants take.

I’m also very interested in the time it takes for participants to generate the estimates. One thing we're always confronted with is the need for real-time information to support decision making. So how can we compress the time from exporting our geological database through geological modelling and estimation to be able to draw insights to inform decision making about the deposit?

Traditionally it takes a lot of time to go from data to information and insight. Which begs the question: are the new tools and methodologies available allowing us to compress the time to somewhere near real-time? So that when I get a new assay in the database I can quickly update and produce the insight and information for decision making on that resource.

The Parker Challenge presents a great opportunity for the resource estimation discipline to take a big step forward. Can you share with us what value Rio Tinto saw in the Challenge that prompted them to sponsor?
Harry Parker's association with Oyu Tolgoi and Rio Tinto was an important factor. Harry supported Oyu Tolgoi with various consulting engagements between 2005 and 2018. He was also one of the faculty members on our iconic orebody knowledge and strategic mine planning course between 2005 and 2010 which nearly 400 Rio Tinto professionals completed. Harry also had a profound impact on the Mongolian mining industry, helping to establish the Mongolian Professional Institute of Geosciences and Mining (MPIGM) as a National Reporting Organisation and Mongolia as the 8th member of the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO).

We also hope to find unique insights into the Hugo South deposit; the resource model hasn’t been updated for 20 years. I'm really curious to see the different approaches to modelling, estimation and resource classification of the Hugo South deposit and how that differs from the original work. Through partnership with AusIMM we're going to be able to achieve a greater understanding of the different approaches and estimation parameters that could be applied at Hugo South and their relative merits. This will deliver great benefit and insight to the Oyu Tolgoi team.

In addition, the Parker Challenge will present benefits to the industry more broadly. I hope to be able to make the outputs of this competition available for future research and to continue this research to clarify: how we write our reporting codes, how we communicate risk to upper management and investors, whether classification is effective in communicating our understanding of the uncertainty in a model and so on.

What do you think will be the long-term benefits of The Parker Challenge on mineral resource estimation?
The JORC Code is currently being updated. Perhaps the outcomes of this Challenge can inform how the Code is updated. Being able to communicate uncertainty and how that translates to risk as well as having insight into the range of uncertainty will be fascinating. This can allow us to see if our reporting codes are sufficient in providing us with an effective mechanism to communicate that uncertainty to investors and interested parties. Which really speaks to classification as our tool for defining our level of confidence in the geological continuity and estimation parameters.

I think we'll be sitting there at the end of the conference saying: “well that was a great start but now I'm curious about XYZ and how can we leverage this number of estimates, and the rich data we have available to us to further the conversation?” Hopefully if the conference is held again two years from now, and we have another data set to add to this body of work, we’ll further improve our knowledge and understanding of the variability of different practitioners and their different approaches.

The Challenge is certainly exciting! Especially given the dataset hasn't been reviewed for 20 years, and considering the advancements in technology and AI over that time, it will be interesting to see what impact these factors have on the approaches of the estimators and ultimately to the outcome of the estimates.  
Yes, it sure is. The geology model for Hugo South was interpreted and digitised in two dimensional sections, which today one might consider a little slow! The line-by-line digitising of geology on sections would have taken months. What could be the impact of implicit modelling and machine learning to generate geological models or domains in much shorter time frames?

You've been a geologist in the resources sector for more than 25 years. Have you ever been part of a project like the Parker Challenge before?
I have not. Nothing even close that I can think of. At Rio Tinto, we collaborate a lot internally and bring our full knowledge and capability to work on specific problems or models or estimates or deposits, but never have I been involved in an industry wide partnership where we have multiple professionals all working on the same data set. It’s unprecedented.

The next 20 years of your career may look very different if we continue to build on this Challenge and the potential growth of the mineral resource estimation discipline because of it.
Absolutely, because regardless of how technically proficient and innovative our teams are, they're limited in the amount of work they can do. Partnering to essentially crowdsource solutions is going to enable the whole industry to advance at a rapid rate. The willingness to share and the humility to say that we don't have all the answers is going to enable rapid advances in our understanding and our workflows that we wouldn’t be able to achieve on our own. I would really like to see that this concept of The Parker Challenge continue into future conferences so we can continue to progress at a larger rate together as an industry.

Find out more about the inaugural Mineral Resource Estimation Conference by visiting the homepage or access the conference rates below.


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