Imdex bolts on core-image technology, with AI on the side

New deal gives small tech firm nominal A$18.3m value

Melbourne-based geological imaging firm, Datarock, is expected to enrich ASX-listed Imdex’s remote drill sample analytical capabilities and get in front of a larger global mining client base sooner following the latter’s A$5.5 million investment announced this week.

Imdex is acquiring 30% of Datarock, said to be generating about $2 million of annual revenue. It can exercise options to move to 51% and then 100% over the next four years, subject to Datarock meeting “agreed strategic milestones”.

Imdex, which supplies drilling fluids and technology around the world, has seen its share price climb about 74% so far this year, lifting its market value to A$1.17 billion. The company recently reported FY21 net profit of $31.7 million on revenue of $264.4m, up 45% and 11%, respectively, year-on-year.

It has acquired and developed technology that gives explorers and miners access to “real-time” field drill-hole and sample location, orientation, grade, mineralogy, texture and visual data, relayed via cloud-based services. Advanced analytics are said to be complemented by Datarock’s cloud platform that applies “AI and ML to automate the extraction of geological and geotechnical information from core imagery, videos and point clouds”.

“Imdex’s partnership with Datarock will accelerate growth plans, including product development and market expansion,” the former said. Datarock had an existing customer base with “major mining companies globally” and had processed more than five million metres of end-user drill core.

“Imagery, video and point clouds are critical components of modern-day rock knowledge. Imagery is routinely collected, however, it is underutilised and its analysis is often manual and inconsistent,” Imdex said.

“Rock knowledge is an understanding of location, texture, grade and mineralogy. It answers the questions where to drill next and how processing can be optimised. We enable the timely delivery of quality data, giving clarity on the nature of the rock to allow real-time decisions to be made, rather than having to wait weeks or months.”

Datarock CEO Liam Webb, a geoscientist who studied at the University of Tasmania and majored in geophysics, focusing on machine learning methods in blast hole ore categorisation, described the company’s core product as a “cloud-native, geological computer-vision solution that operates on mining and exploration imagery”.

“We develop and deploy state-of-the-art AI technologies to extract quantified information from geological images. Our models are trained and developed with a geo-in-the-loop mindset, so that they learn the way geologists and engineers interpret images.”


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