2019 NExUS Program Alumni
Highlights of the 2019 NExUS program
Thirty-four early career geoscientists descended upon Adelaide to mark the fourth year of the National Exploration Undercover School - NExUS.
Put simply, the goal of NExUS is to bring together geologists for a world class intensive training course in mineral exploration to kick start their careers.
NExUS is a special opportunity to consolidate skills and encounter exploration ideas, technologies and networks you will often not have been exposed to at university or the mining industry.
The 2019 NExUS cohort was a diverse group including second and final year undergraduates, honours students, current PhD students and novice (but gainfully employed) early career geoscientists.
The cohort represented 11 Australian universities, Geoscience Australia, Geological Survey of New South Wales, BHP, Evolution Mining, KCGM, Rio Tinto and Anglo American to name but a few. The broad appeal of this program is the first sign that NExUS is a novel, exciting and sought after experience.
2019 program participants
The 2019 NExUS cohort were, pictured above, rear rows, from left:
- Darcy Steele - Monash University
- Honor Wilson - Queensland University of Technology (Author)
- Sophie Nutku - Lithium Power International
- Braden Morgan - University of Adelaide / Newmont
- Sam Matthews - Geological Survey of New South Wales
- Mitchell Bockmann - University of Adelaide / NExUS Demonstrator
- Ryan McMann - Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines
- Brenainn Simpson - Geological Survey of NSW
- Christopher Lowczak - University of Adelaide
- Lachlan Huxley - Rio Tinto
- Stewart Cox - University of Tasmania
- Joseph Fisher - James Cook University
- Bozana Pasic - Australian National University
- Hamish Cowie - Evolution Mining
- Sizah Nawzad - University of NSW
- Omar Elkhaligi - Alkane Resources
- Achai Bol - University of Adelaide
- Gizella Szekely - University of Queensland
- Eleanore Dowling - University of Western Australia
- Adam Olsen - Novo Resources / Curtin University
- Kasia Sobczak - Queensland University of Technology
Front row, from left:
- Aditi Sondkar - University of Queensland
- Liam Pitt - Geoscience Australia
- Dean Monteiro - University of Queensland / Anglo American
- Brooke North - University of Adelaide - OZ Minerals
- Brigette Small - Monash University
- Emily Finch - MinEX-CRC / NExUS Demonstrator
- James Murr - Geoscience Australia
- Kelly Tucker - Geological Survey of NSW
- Dana Leslie - University of Adelaide / Inception Group
- Le Xi K ng - University of Tasmania
- Lee-an Lu - Curtin University
- Richard Lilly - University of Adelaide / NExUS Program Leader
- Matthew Campbell - University of Queensland
- Alexander Tunnadine - BHP
Week one highlights
The program opened with three days at the South Australian Drill Core Reference Library where Phil McFadden introduced the UNCOVER initiative.
In this world-class facility, Phil emphasised the need for a paradigm shift in minerals exploration to see geoscientists, industry, government and academia collaborate and embrace new technologies in under cover exploration. He had set the tone for the NExUS program’s structure and its 2019 attendees- who I shall refer to as “The NExi” (pronounced like “Jedi”).
It was clear during the first three days that NExUS would cover ground mostly untouched by many current Australian undergraduate geology degrees.
Regolith mapping, biogeochemical analysis and 3D geophysical modelling were just some of the tools introduced to us by senior GSSA and GA representatives - including Carmen Krapf, Dr Anna Petts, Stephan Thiel, Kate Roberston and Karol Czarnota - for under-cover exploration.
The group got hands on with workshops on regolith logging and weathering profile characterisation and core logging techniques.
NExUS’ emphasis on an applied understanding continued at the Boart Longyear drill research facility, where the group learned about basic operations of a diamond drill rig and emerging drilling technologies. This provided practical exposure to the critical role of the drilling team on an exploration site, and how new technology is improving safety and efficiency in diamond drilling.
Our evenings during the first week allowed us to develop our informal networking skills with senior industry professionals and representatives from AusIMM, AIG, BHP and Investigator Resources.
These nights gave us an opportunity to ask questions which are rarely addressed during our studies, and to learn from first-hand experiences in the exploration and mining industry, from junior explorers to major mining companies.
The first week concluded at the South Australian Exploration and Mining Conference (SAEMC) which provided more opportunity for The NExi to expand their networks and learn about the current and future mineral exploration industry in South Australia.
The first week ended with a standout day at the prestigious Adelaide Oval to watch the second day of the Australia vs Pakistan test. It would be remiss not to mention that David Warner’s triple tonne provided a memorable way to cap off an excellent week!
Week one photo gallery
Week two highlights
The second week of NExUS began with a focus on the acquisition of new geological data and its interpretation using machine learning.
Tom Carmichael from Solve Geosolutions delivered a workshop using R-Studio to interpret drill core lithologies, alteration and structure from core photos. Tom emphasised the use of machine learning to provide a targeted approach, by first user-defining the geological problem, and then collecting the appropriate data to address the issue.
This motif was carried on during our workshops on structural controls to mineralisation with Jun Cowan and Rob Reid, using the OreFind software to clearly visualise and model structural controls to ore bodies using drill hole assay data.
NExUS was soon off exploring; putting into practice the mindset we had been cultivating with a field trip to Strathalbyn in the Adelaide Hills. The Hillgrove Resources exploration tenure over the historic Wheal Ellen Ag-Zn-Pb (Cu) deposit provided the ideal opportunity to conduct intensive mapping over the site using ground based geophysical data acquisition.
Over three days under Professor Graham Heinson’s careful and patient guidance, we set up and ran a variety of geophysical surveys, including: magnetics, gravity, magnetotellurics (MT), induced polarisation (IP), ground penetrating radar (GPR), s¬¬eismics and transverse electro magnetics (TEM).
Exploration mapping was conducted over the site with Mike Belperio from Newmont, coupled with learning the set-up of soil sampling surveys and the collection of high quality soil geochemistry with Ryan Noble (CSIRO).
Knowing that whilst we were in the field, we were working to industry standards and best practice, was truly invaluable experience for this group of rookie geologists.
Exposure to the next stage in working a potential deposit was also provided by Gavin Springbett from G&S Resources, who delivered a workshop on 3D ore body modelling in Vulcan using the Wheal Ellen deposit as a case study. The NExi were introduced to skills in resource estimation, project feasibility and reserve calculations with reference to the JORC code.
Learning how the exploration process transitions from good investigative fieldwork to resource estimation was a huge takeaway from our second week.
Week two photo gallery
Week three highlights
The final week saw The NExi embark on a second field trip to the ‘Copper Coast’ on the Yorke Peninsula. The week involved a welcomed balance of critical theory, field mapping and post-field activities.
Morning lectures by Richard Lilly focused on identifying ore and gangue minerals, hydrothermal alteration and breccia textures as well as understanding mineral paragenesis.
We applied this training with Colin Conor to identify IOCG mineralisation and their associated structures and logging IOCG exploration drill core to determine a complex mineral paragenesis at REX Minerals Hillside deposit. Carmen Krapf also returned to lead a day focused on the variable regolith environments of the area.
Our final week was unique as it shed light on the social and cultural responsibility of our chosen career paths.
The group was lucky to have Quenten Agius, Chairman of the Adjahdura Narungga Heritage group, to join us for a discussion of preserving cultural heritage, understanding cultural safety and working best practice with traditional owners during exploration campaigns and subsequent mining operations.
Week three photo gallery
Thank you NExUS
Aside from our introduction to essential industry skills, one of the most valuable outcomes of NExUS 2019 was the friendships formed within our cohort.
The idea of bringing together 34 strangers who get their kicks from tramping through the bush and overturning rocks might seem like a potential recipe for disaster.
However, the close friendships formed is a testament to not only the success of the program, but also to the role of an emerging network of geoscientists who will continue the success of Australia’s minerals exploration. These are contacts and avenues of advice that we will carry throughout our careers in exploration and the mining industry.
The NExUS cohort would like to thank Graham and Richard for their organisation, continued encouragement and patience, the Minerals Council of Australia for their financial support and to everyone who supported the program.
The standard of professionalism, organisation and care that has gone into this program is second-to-none
I cannot recommend NExUS highly enough to current students or early career geologists who want advanced training in exploration from some of Australia’s elite mineral explorers.
In just three weeks, I have returned a better geoscientist and it isn’t just because of NExUS’ attention to developing a foundational skill set. The exposure to new colleagues, new technologies and new approaches to exploration provokes a mindset change for what you will need to bring to Australia’s mineral future.
"The university degree has trained me to think like a geoscientist, NExUS has begun my training as an exploration geologist."Honor Wilson, NExUS participant
Huge thanks to the 50+ professional geoscientists and the 20+ industry, university, and government institutions who have contributed to NExUS 2019!