Exploration Data moving forward in 2020. Vol 110

This article looks at the different approaches by Minerba and Industry to the storage and use of geological data.

Data helps geologists find new mines.

The Dutch explorer recorded the sighting of a mountain of copper in Papua (1936), but it was some 23 years later that a geologist undertaking a library search noted this, and set about the hard work (1959) to confirm what ultimately became the Grasberg mine. Van Bemmelen undertook a masterful compilation (1947 – 49) of 100 years of Dutch colonial geological exploration programs into two volumes (General Geology & Economic Geology). This book, and other reports held in the geological libraries, formed the basis for much of the targeting of new tenements for the 1980’s – 2000 exploration rush for coal, gold and other minerals. The national geological mapping program (1:250,000 series), along with several international cooperation surveys, plus various generations of Contract of Works for minerals and coal undertook extensive regional geological surveys, adding further to Indonesia’s geological data. Some of this data is lost, but much survives in several in libraries, and untold numbers of storage boxes. Past ESDM programs to scan much of this data seems to have stalled.

Theo van Leeuwen (Theo) recently published his second book for Masyarakat Geologi Ekonomy Indonesia 10th Anniversary Special Publication titled “25 more years of mineral exploration and discovery in Indonesia (1993-2017)”. Theo is a well-respected pioneer of the modern era of mineral exploration in Indonesia, having been in charge of Rio Tinto Indonesia’s mineral exploration operation from 1975 until his retirement in 2002. Much of the book details the various mineral discoveries in Indonesia. Theo makes some important observations in his book about time and its relation to discovery.  “In many instances exploration of a particular prospect took place during more than one phase/ period, either more or less continuously, or with more distinct breaks.” Several examples are given, including; –

  • “The Dairi district was discovered by Herald Resources geologists in 1998 in an area in North Sumatra where around the turn of the 19th century Dutch colonial soldiers had found lead-zinc-silver vein mineralisation, which was briefly mined (van Bemmelen, 1949).”
  • “Several large-scale nickel laterite exploration campaigns were mounted in eastern Indonesia in the late 1960s and early 1970s, targeting peridotite terranes and laterite occurrences identified by the Dutch. A number of laterite resources were outlined. Only two were developed, viz. Soroako in eastern Sulawesi by INCO (taken over by Vale in 2006), and Gebe Island by Antam (van Leeuwen, 1994). Soroako, already known in the Dutch time,”
  • “The history of the KSK project, named after the Indonesian holding company (PT Kalimantan Surya Kencana), spans more than 35 years of continuous exploration at a total cost of close to 60 million historical USD (M. Geiger, written comm., 2018). It is a tale of ups and downs coupled with persistence that still may have a happy ending.”

There are many international examples where multiple layers of historic data led to successful exploration programs. Data is reviewed and sorted by successive generations of geologists, often applying new ore deposition models. These data review programs are then tested in the field with another phase of exploration, that often end in another failure or sometimes in success. In Canada, the Hemlo gold deposit was discovered in the mid 1980’s. The next main gold discovery in this gold province was found in 2011 though review of 50 years of data gathered by at least 8 exploration programs by the Westhaven geologist. This success stimulated a resurgence of regional exploration, including one program employing a team of 22 geologists to collect 4,500 geochemical samples.

When this writer undertook coal exploration in South Sumatra in the mid 70’s with Shell Coal, I was privileged to use Shells new COGEO digital recording of drill lithology, structure and assay results. Shell handed over a copy of this system, along with a computer and all files to the Mines Department. There have been many digital data recording systems that have followed, with only a few of similar standard to COGEO. Jump forward 45 years, and artificial intelligence (Industry 4.0) is now being applied to historical geological data sets to aid in the targeting of new exploration programs.

The Minerba’s launching (2 Dec 2019) of the Exploration Data Warehouse (EDW) is the latest attempt by Minerba to digitize the nations geological data.

Introducing the Exploration Data Warehouse (EDW).

On the 2nd December 2019 the Directorat Jenderal Mineral dan Batubara (Minerba) undertook the launching of three new computer systems to record the mineral and coal industries activities of commodity sales [Aplikasi Modul Mineral Verifikasi Penjulan – MVP], exploration reporting [Exploration Monitoring System – EMS] and submitting of exploration data [Exploration Data Warehouse – EDW] for minerals and coal.

The presentation indicated that these digital data systems shall help the Mines Department coordinate and 1) manage the exploration and mining tenement areas, 2) direct efforts towards reserve replacement ratio, and 3) monitor greenfield and brownfield exploration budget activity. The three new systems rely on participation /compliance with other MOMS digital systems regarding company name, location, payment of certain fees etc. These new computer systems also rely upon the registered Surveyors, and upon Competent Persons to ensure reliable and correct data is input. It appears that only top administrators of Minerba can view / make use of such data. These three new systems (MVP, EMS, EDW) shall be compulsory from 1 January 2020. Socialization of the MVP was undertaken at this 2 December event. Socialization of the EMS and EDW was undertaken a few days later in Bali. A further socialization of the EMS was undertaken in Jakarta with Perhapi on the 19th December. It would appear that Minerba is yet to place public information on these systems on its web site. This writer recently visited Minerba to learn more about the Exploration Data Warehouse (EDW).

EDW – A work in progress.

It seems the present short-term object of Minerba is to have existing tenement holders fill out various data fields such that Minerba can easily determine future Compensation Data Information (KDI) fees. In other countries, such basic data can be compiled to reflect the health of the exploration industry – typically as an expression of the number of meters drill / assays in each commodity, or area covered by remote sensing etc.

Upon gaining access (for active compliant explorers / miners only) through prior registration with MOMS, the Competent Person user has a number of data fields to select from, survey, drill, maps etc. It is clear this EDW is a “work in progress”, as many standard data fields are not present. For example, the drill from & drill to data is not accompanied by a core recovery field. Assay data is not accompanied by the assay method, nor the laboratory name. Therein the present data is not much use for qualitative analysis, and has significant less technical & economic value. An example of uploading maps could not be demonstrated at this Minerba site visit, though it seems uncertain if map details such as scale, magnetic / grid north etc are entered in the map data file. Geological reports (quarterly, annual etc) appear not to be presently captured, missing out on critical data on how the data was captured & validated.

Each of these data fields has a principal “year” for recording, and later sorting data. Although most data allow for coordinates – it seems the system is not yet robust enough to readily sort principally on a selected area over a long period of time. There in the useability of such data for the exploration geologist is limited. Indeed, the present sorting system seems to be very much limited to government administrative year book reporting.

It seems the Minerba plan is to get the EDW system up and running, and filled out by the existing compliant tenement holders (Central & provincial). Minerba recognise there is additional value is to compile the historical data into the EDW. There seems to be a vague plan that in 2020 Minerba will endeavour to compile their older data from 2019 – 2018, and that succeeding years will input progressively earlier data packages. However, it is unclear if there is an approved budget & work plan to capture this earlier data. A further complexity is to decide on a manner of vouching for this earlier data. At present, Competent Persons are trusted to enter current data, but earlier data may not be supported by such Competent Persons. Indeed, some Competent Persons professional codes have restrictions on the vouching for some old (more than 5 years) data.

The uploading of present data can be electronically undertaken for certain maps, but it seems much of the data is to be keyed into the given excel spreadsheets. It is hoped that electronic up linking can extend to all other fields – particularly as cross checking for typing mistakes is a tedious task. In a number of international data systems there are automatic cross checks to catch certain fields for data compliance.

Regulations on data.

It is apparent that Minerba’s principal and immediate use for exploration data is an input towards calculating the Data Compensation Fee (KDI).

It would appear the Mining Law 4/2009 does not define exploration data. Permen 11 of 2018 on procedures for granting tenements (21 Feb 2018) defines data as “all facts, instructions, indications, and information in the form of writing (characters), numbers (digital), image (analog), magnetic media, documents, samples of rocks, fluids, and other forms obtained from the results of investigation and research activities mining, general investigation, exploration, study Feasibility, Construction, Mining, or processing and / or purification”. Article 9 goes on to the use of such data as: – (1) Price compensation Data information WIUP and WIUPK as referred to in Article 8 paragraph (1) letter c calculated on availability: a. distribution of mineralized rock formations metal or Coal; b. Indication data of metal or coal mineralization; c. Potential Data of Metal or Coal Minerals; and / or d. Mineral or Coal Mineral Data Reserves.

Decree 1827 (7 March 2018) is 370 pages of highly descriptive guidelines for good mining practice. Appendix II – E. Exploration Activities sets out technical requirements for the collection of many types of exploration data. It would seem there could be greater coordination between such regulated best practices, and the EDW ability to capture such data. This appendix incudes some directions on the storage of digital sample data, and remote sensing data with a limitation of not more than 5 years age.

Decree 1798 – guidelines for auction system (20 April 2018). Following the Minerba regulation, the decree stipulates the preparation work done by the Minerba to determine the auction area. This is to include sourcing geological information (Geological Agency / ESDM research Agency) to include regional geology, topography plus data points on mineralized / coal outcrops, methods of data collection and the potential tonnage of resources / reserves. Where possible this data to be in digital format, and to include past exploration reports, including methods of potential resource estimations etc. The preparation data also includes spatial planning land use / utilization data (this data is to come from the Governor, but no further details given). It is hoped the land use / utilization data is adequate for some of the criteria in determining the Exploration Guarantee fund. Minerba has developed an internal codification system as part of the development of the auction system that recognizes 60 metal mineral elements (Lithium to Zenotin), 40 non-metal minerals (diamonds to limestone for cement), 47 rocks (Pumice to Sand) and 4 types of coal (bitumen, asphalt, coal and peat).

International trends – open data.

Rob McEwen owned an underperforming gold mine in Ontario (Canada), and he needed new ideas about where to dig. So, he broke new ground — and made data on the mine available online to anyone who wanted to help. His reasoning: he could tap into thousands of minds that he wouldn’t normally have access to. He could also speed up exploration and improve his odds of discovery. March 2000, at an industry meeting, McEwen unveiled the Goldcorp Challenge. The external response was immediate. More than 1,400 scientists, engineers, and geologists from 50 countries downloaded the company’s data and started their virtual exploration. For McEwen, the contest itself was a gold mine. “We have drilled four of the winners’ top five targets and have hit on all four,” he says. “But what’s really important is that from a remote site, the winners were able to analyze a database and generate targets without ever visiting the property. It’s clear that this is part of the future.” In 1996, Red Lake was producing at an annual rate of 53,000 ounces at $360 an ounce. By 2001, the mine was producing 504,000 ounces at $59 an ounce. 

The AusIMM Bulletin (December 2019) reprinted a Queensland Exploration Council on line article [ qurex.com.au ] “Queensland leads the charge to modernise data-driven exploration”. The Queensland Geological Survey (QGS) aims to enhance data driven exploration in Queensland by bringing data from six separate systems into a single open-door portal. Anyone will be able to find target data using spatial, text of facets search tools. This enables fast and easy searching, filtering and downloading through a standard web browser. The format of the metadata also supports machine learning and artificial intelligence. The catalogue itself is based on international and national data standards to ensure its quality and longevity.

Industries requirements for KDI data.

The principal use of geological data for industry is to help guide ongoing exploration programs. The data to be provided under the KDI system should include all data, collected and stored with the Minerba related to the tenement block. This may include; –

  • All reports held by the Minerba, quarterly, annual, feasibility, work plan & budget reports and relinquishment reports, plus historical records.
  • The Minerba to identify / list any surveys / reports known, but not available.
  • Letter of support to access previous reports, related to the target area, from overlapping government bodies, including forestry, spatial planning etc.
  • Access to core storage & appropriate local government records that may impact on the ensuing exploration program (including social, manpower, environment aspects).
  • Authorization for the new tenement owner to have a letter of approval to access to sample residual material that may be in independent laboratory storage, similar access to third party consultant / contractor reports that are mentioned in the formal reports to the Mines Department (assay, geophysical, survey, imagery, modelling etc).

The KDI should entitle the new tenement holder to “own” such original data, but does not preclude the Minerba from using duplicates of such data for administrative purposes. Suitable disclaimers shall accompany the delivery of data to the new tenement holder.

The Minerba should provide such data in digital (virus free) or hard copy format that is legible. Where possible the data provided should be in compliance of Minerba decree 1827K / 30 / MEM / 2018 about “guidelines for the conduct of good mining engineering conditions”.


It is clear the Minerba’s present use for geological data is principally a tool to calculate a fee for new tenement bidders, wherein the quality of information is not yet a significant factor. On the other hand, the investors use of data is to guide exploration wherein the quality and reliability of such data is paramount.

The Minerba have established a very basic EDW system that needs upgrading, and to be compatible with Decree 1827 and industry best practices. Later the EDW may provide Minerba with criteria to measure the success of the exploration industry – such as number of meters drilled in gold prospects etc.  The real value to advancing the Indonesian exploration and mining industry will come when Minerba follows the global trend towards an open source data.

That Minerba will need a significant budget and manpower commitment to digitize and upload Minerba’s huge data library. Concerns over competent person criteria for old data need to be addressed. It may be possible for Minerba to discuss with the professional organization, industry associations, along with service providers (assay laboratories, geophysical consultants etc) to find the best way to enter the historical data into the EDW.