Our Innovation Manager Peter Holmes will be leaving soon Smart Exploration but but he was kind enough to give us his insights about the project.


Peter Holmes (right) with our project coordinator Alireza Malehmir (left) during the seismic survey in Ludvika, Sweden, May 2019

Can you tell us about yourself? 

As a geologist for over 25 years, I have worked in mineral exploration for different commodities such as diamonds, gold and base metals. Working in both greenfield and brownfield exploration, my work has taken me throughout Canada, Russia, Fennoscandia, Greenland and southern Africa. My expertise is primarily in targeting and greenfield exploration under transported cover such as glaciated terrain.

Having worked with a number of major mining companies either directly or in joint ventures on exploration projects provided a network of contacts who are interested in the outcomes of Smart Exploration. The focus on deep exploration methods is particularly important as many companies are looking for new discoveries at greater depths.

My role as Project and Innovation Manager covered a broad range of activities and tasks from advising various partners about securing intellectual property rights (IPR) to tracking milestones and deliverables to ensure compliance with the Horizon 2020 consortium agreement. My involvement with Smart Exploration also enabled me to observe the steady progress by the partners and the data acquisition for various tasks at several of the six exploration sites.

What can you tell about Smart Exploration?

Through the general assembly and progress meetings, I have noted the collaborative research and the leadership necessary to move the tasks or sub-projects forward. This can be challenging with 27 partners spread out in eleven countries with each researcher responsible for developing new instruments, software or methods of interpretation. As Smart Exploration enters its final year, I am impressed with the continuous progress overcoming obstacles such as delays in delivery of components for new instrumentation, permitting, etc.

I think that it is worth noting that Smart Exploration’s consistent progress can be explained by the three C’s of leadership – coordination, collaboration and communication. Coordination is essential so that everyone understands what they are doing so all the pieces come together as planned. Collaborative research is a key aspect because a successful outcome depends on all the parts being completed as scheduled as the tasks are linked. Communication is the thread that connects all the partners so that everyone understands their individual role but realizes that other academic institutions, mining companies and the general public must know how this research and innovation can benefit them. A particular strength has been informing the exploration companies who might benefit from the innovative solutions being developed by participation at major conferences such as PDAC in Toronto and effective use of LinkedIn posts.

You’re going to leave Smart Exploration. What are your next steps?

Over the last 18 months, I have considered new methods to improve exploration undercover in glaciated terrains, in particular Finland and Scandinavia. After examining the advances in new analytical technologies, I have proposed a new cost-effective sampling, processing and analytical methodology for a variety of commodities such as gold, base metals and magmatic deposits. Also using the various geophysical, geochemical and exploration databases available for a generative exercise, three priority areas were highlighted for magmatic Ni deposits. I hope to follow up on these target areas in 2020.

Do you have any advice for the continuation of Smart Exploration? 

As Smart Exploration progresses into its final year, most of the prototypes (i.e. GPS time transmitter, E-vibe, etc) are already entering the commercialization phase. Much of the last year will be used to integrate all the newly acquired data and interpret the results and producing final reports. The completion of summary reports ensures that the collaboration continues to the end of the project. Moreover, the reporting highlights the impactful research and facilitates knowledge transfer among all stakeholders, especially potential customers for these innovative solutions. The project completion is only a partial success with the commercialization of the new technologies and software as the ultimate objective. The validation exercises demonstrate the applicability of the various outcomes to deep exploration with the potential to improve the discovery rate of new resources and deposits. These case studies need to be communicated to the exploration and mining community through publications, presentations at conferences and direct outreach to potential clients. The customers may include other SMEs who want to use these technologies under licence or purchase the systems, or mining/exploration companies seeking a service provider to operate the new UAV-FDEM or downhole geophysical systems.

I believe that Smart Exploration is a model for Horizon 2020 projects. It was very ambitious with 27 partners spread out across Europe but well coordinated and will achieve all its objectives. Smart Exploration was hugely beneficial for training young professionals in project management but also had a positive impact for the Social Licence to Operate (SLO) with effective social engagement campaigns in Kosovo, Ludvika (Sweden) and Siilinjarvi (Finland).

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