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Observations on AME Roundup 2019 – Additions to the Geoscience Toolbox to prevent “noodling”

AME Roundup 2019 in Vancouver, BC, finished on 31 January 2019, and here are my observations about some of the events. (Previous post: 3. New Afton: An overview of a successful BC block cave – New Gold Inc.)

4. Innovation Hub, Additions to the Geoscience Toolbox, Jan 30, 2019

The Innovation Hub at Roundup 2019 featured Geologists from the BC Geological Survey (BCGS), the Yukon Geological Survey (YGS) and UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit.

Gabe Fortin, Geomatics Geoscientist of the BCGS, explained that there are vast troves of historical paper-format reports on BC projects, from PEAs to Feasibility Studies, that they are in the process of digitizing. This includes ARIS and COALFILE assessment reports. Digitizing, as Dianne Mitchinson of UBC later explained, mostly means dull and laborious scanning and converting paper documents to pdfs and then using OCR (optical character recognition) software to read the documents and extract the information, which is then stored electronically and made accessible online. At the BCGS, this is their online searchable database and program, MINFILE. The MINFILE database has information on more than 14,600 metallic mineral, industrial mineral and coal mines, deposits and occurrences documented in British Columbia.

The process and the database is the work of the ages – it is a massive undertaking, and the BCGS needs the input of users to add their projects’ information and grow the database. Mitchinson drew delegates’ attention to the standing invitation from the BCGS for users to upload their ARIS data to the site at, adding that the BCGS provides ARIS digital data on an ‘as-is’ basis and have neither the manpower nor the intention of verifying or cleaning up any of it.

Screen shot of the GEOYUKON home page

Lara Lewis, Economic Geologist of the YGS, called her presentation “No More Noodling Around in the Data Swamp”. I had no idea what “noodling” was – she explained it means bare-hand-fishing for catfish; the “noodler” sticks their hand into a catfish hole in the river and noodles about and if they are lucky, grabs a catfish and pulls it out the hole. In other words, it is based on sheer dumb luck and not exactly reliable to look for information like a noodler. It was a good comparison, and she then went on to explain that that’s the reason why the YGS has been working steadily on digitizing, organizing and making their data available online, with a particular emphasis on searchable maps and Placer data. The YGS Web map gallery is one of their useful online tools which allow users to view, query, and download data previously available only in YGS publications.

Noodling a catfish in a swamp. Don’t do research like that.

Brett Elliot, GIS Geologist of the YGS talked about the gem in the crown of the YGS’s online search tools – Geomatics Yukon, which means that users can now, via the app, GEOYUKON, search for and find GIS data on lands, mines, surveys, oil and gas, watersheds, aerial views, etc. They are rightly proud of it. The app uses licensed Geocortex Essential technology for the Esri® ArcGIS platform. It’s like a great big toy for Geographers and Geologists, owners/developers and everyone who wants to know.

The general impression I got was that these Government organizations are steadily plugging away at getting their data cleaned up, organized, coded and made available online. But they are playing catch-up with what is happening with spatial data used by Governments in Europe. Again, it’s one thing to have technology to use, it’s another to find a subject to which to apply it, and it’s again something else to do that to world-class standards.

Next: Innovation Hub, Additions to the Geoscience Toolbox – New Tech, Jan 31, 2019

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