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My PhD Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mining

- By: John P Sykes
Posted in: Blog, Conferences, Exploration, Future, Management, Mineral Economics, Mineral Policy, Mining, PhD, Publications, Recommended, Research, Strategy


In November last year I presented an overview of my PhD research and ‘journey’ at the school postgraduate symposium. The unofficial title was “My PhD Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mining”. The more formal title for my PhD research is “Using scenario planning to improve the integration of geological, technical, economic, environmental, geopolitical, and socio-political factors in minerals exploration management and strategy”.

The symposium presentation is available below, along with the abstract:

Scenario planning to improve exploration – Sykes – Nov 2017 – Centre for Exploration Targeting from John P. Sykes

“The minerals industry needs to improve its ability to target ore bodies that are likely to be mineable. However, the long lead time from exploration initiation to discovery then to mining, means that what is defined as mineable at present, may not be so in several decades. Mineral explorers therefore need a good understanding of the long-term future of mining to help with exploration targeting, including geological, technical, economic, environmental, geopolitical, and socio-political factors. However, such a wide range of complex, interdependent factors interacting over period of many years, defies traditional extrapolative forecasting techniques.

The Centre for Exploration Targeting “Future of Minerals Exploration” scenarios programme was therefore established to investigate both the future of exploration (how to explore) and the future of mining (for what to explore). Four scenarios sets were developed and analysed over three years, consisting of an ’individual’ scenario planning exercise and three group workshops. The workshops involved nearly 60 participants with over 1,300 years of combined academic and professional experience across exploration, mining, geoscience, engineering, technology, economics, commerce, management, law, environmental science, energy, sustainability, anthropology, history, and social sciences.

Three potential broad, new search spaces were identified (in addition to the already established ’under cover’ search space):
1. new metals associated with the energy transition and other major societal change
2. gaining access to areas previously restricted for socio-political reasons
3. and similarly, for geopolitical reasons.
Opening these three search spaces, however, requires different capabilities to past exploration efforts. Several recommendations are made to help minerals explorers diversify their professional capabilities to open these more conceptually challenging, technologically, and socio-politically focused search spaces. A key element of this will be tracking both global and local trends in technology and socio-politics, for which scenario planning is also likely to prove of further use.”