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IBM’s Watson takes a deep look at Red Lake

Goldcorp using artificial intelligence analytics to hunt for gold
Red Lake gold complex1
Goldcorp has enlisted IBM's Watson supercomputer to help pinpoint new gold zones in the Red Lake mining camp. (File photo)

IBM’s Watson supercomputer is being employed to help look for gold in northwestern Ontario's Red Lake mining camp.

Goldcorp and the U.S. tech giant have teamed up for an “innovative first” with a new product – IBM Exploration with Watson – that employs artificial intelligence to predict the potential for gold mineralization using exploration data sets from the company's Red Lake Gold Mines.

A Nov. 26 Goldcorp news release said IBM Exploration with Watson help geologists find key information in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods through the use of spatial analytics, machine learning, and predictive models.

"The potential to radically accelerate exploration target identification combined with significantly improved hit rates on economic mineralization has the potential to drive a step-change in the pace of value growth in the industry," said Todd White, Goldcorp’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer in a Nov. 26 statement.

Watson is IBM’s multi-faceted supercomputer that’s been developed as an analyst and consultant to various industries. It consumes information from massive web databases to give answers to inputted questions.

"Applying the power of IBM Watson to these unique challenges differentiates us in the natural resources industry," said Mark Fawcett, partner with IBM Canada.

"We are using accelerated computing power for complex geospatial queries that can harmonize geological data from an entire site on a single platform. This is the first time this solution has been ever used, which makes this project all the more significant."

In the Red Lake camp, IBM Exploration with Watson is identifying proposed new targets for exploration drilling. Goldcorp is thrilled with the results. The first drilled-off target yielded the predicted mineralization at the expected depth.

"Timelines are short in mining and exploration. I am excited to see the improvements we can make with the data platform and gold mineralization predictions," said Goldcorp’s exploration manager Maura Kolb in Red Lake in the news release.

"These tools can help us view data in totally new ways. We have already begun to test the Watson targets from the predictive model through drilling, and results have been impressive so far."

Goldcorp plans to put this technology to work on more targets in 2019.

The company said the IBM Watson initiative has already landed them an Ingenious Award in the large private category from the Information Technology Association of Canada.

The award recognizes excellence in the use of information and communications technology by organizations to solve problems, improve performance, introduce new services, and grow business.