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The future(s) of mineral exploration

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


At the TARGET Conference (Perth, Australia) in April, I was able to present a poster and abstract on my PhD research entitled “The future(s) of minerals exploration”. The work reviews my PhD studies so far (nearly finished) including the background research that inspired the research (wny we need more and better exploration), the reasons why a scenarios methodology was chosen, a brief overview of the four sets of scenarios created and some initial insights arising from these scenarios.

The general conclusion is that much of the present industry (assets and capabilities) may struggle to adapt to the long-term future, which plausibly could be very different to both the present and the past of the industry, thus, exploration needs to focus on building this ‘new’ industry (with the caveat that we are not quite sure what this ‘new’ industry is yet).

In addition to the well-established ‘under cover’ search space, the research highlighted three other broad conceptual search spaces, which could help build this ‘new’ industry:

  • New commodities associated with long-term structural change, such as the energy transition;
  • Using improved ‘social licence to operate’ to access better, previously restricted opportunities;
  • Better cogniscence of political trends (such as the current focus on localism) to overcome and/or use geopolitical barriers to entry.

Unlike the under cover search space, however, these are not technologically driven search spaces, or at least ‘minerals industry’ technology driven search spaces, meaning that the current exploration community is not well-equipped to explore these search spaces. Some recommendations that might help explorers, exploration teams and exploration companies access these search spaces include:

  • Developing strategies and capabilities for entering emerging commodity markets;
  • Building a diverse exploration culture to bring in ideas from other industries and disciplines;
  • Encouraging creativity and ideation;
  • Linking short and long-term thinking;
  • Monitoring local and global socio-political, economic and technological trends;
  • Measuring and understanding the impact of these trends.

The poster is available for download below and the abstract can be found on Researchgate:

Future(s) of mineral exploration – Sykes et al – Apr 2017 – Centre for Exploration Targeting from John P. Sykes