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Minesourcing: How could crowdsourcing be used in mining?

October 12, 2010

Crowdsourcing is a trend in many consumer goods companies. The wisdom of the crowds is tapped by asking the general public to solve a business problem, design a logo, design new products, etc.. The Internet helps tremendously in structuring these requests and reaching a large public.

Crowdsourcing has also been applied in the normally conservative mining industry. Two examples have made it to the standard list of ‘minesourcing’ examples:

  • Goldcorp of Canada was facing declining production in 1999 and was running out of reserves. The company decided to put geological survey data online and offered a total of $575k in prizes to the persons who could identify likely areas for exploration. The contest triggered an enormous response from students, consultant, prospectors and a range of other people. Goldcorp says the contest produced 110 targets that yielded $3bln in gold. Furthermore, the company hired some of the people that came up with the most innovative solutions.
  • In 2007 Barrick Gold started the “Unlock the Value“-program. It challenged the scientific community to come up with an economically viable method to significantly increase silver recovery from the type of ore found at Veladero mine in Argentina. $10mln was promised to the scientists that would come up with a viable method and furthermore the company promised to pay $25k to the teams that made it to the concept testing phase. The company entered this phase in November 2008, testing 9 promising concepts.

If these two companies manage to create value by crowdsourcing operational and scientific challenges, probably more mining companies could do the same. Innovation in the industry could be accelerated if a succesful way is found to apply ‘minesourcing’. Why don’t we see more of these challenges? What is holding the companies back? Would it help to have an independent mediating platform between industry and scientists?

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com