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Business of Applied Geoscience: Business of Mining Geophysics

Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)

Wednesday, 29 September 2021, 1:20 p.m.–5:20 p.m.  |  Denver, ColoradoMile High Room 4 - Colorado Convention Center

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Location: In-Person – Colorado Convention Center (Speakers presenting in-person and online)

The energy market crisis due to the pandemic, climate issues, and decrease of oil and gas prices and opportunities, has fostered and accelerated an energy transition from oil and gas to other energy markets like conventional mining, lithium and rare-earth elements exploration and production. This plenary session will discuss the mining geophysics business, providing industry insights, current challenges, latest developments, commercial opportunities, and networking activity.

Session Chairs

Ana Curcio
Geophysical Consultant, Proingeo SA
Paul Cunningham
Managing Partner, Amigos Energy Advisors, LLC
Sergio Chávez-Pérez
Research Geophysicist, Instituto Mexicano del Petróleo


Ricardo Piethe
Exploration Manager, Litica Resources (Pluspetrol), Argentina

Ricardo is a Senior Executive geologist with more than 15 years of experience in petroleum Exploration and Production (E&P), Research and Development (R&D), and alternative energy investment. In 2006 he received the honor prize “Best Geological Thesis of the year at Buenos Aires University”.

He started his career in 2004 working in YPF as development geologist and two years later he joined Pluspetrol Resources Corp., the largest private E&P in Latin America’s. From 2007 to 2012 Ricardo integrated the Northern South America Regional Studies Team, which was the operator of numerous blocks in Perú, Colombia and Venezuela whose partners were KNOC (National Korean Co.) and CNPC (National Chinese Co.).

In 2012 he received a promotion to the New Ventures Team and he was responsible for identifying and maturing prospects, including geology, geophysics, petrophysics, and new business. Ricardo studied exploration opportunities across all Sub-Saharan Africa Basins, Alaska, Myanmar, Australia and along all Latin America countries both onshore and offshore basins.

Currently he is the Exploration Manager for Litica Resources, the mining division of Pluspetrol Resources Corp. He is in charge for all geological and subsurface operations, including wells and geophysical surveys. Exploration asset maturation (identification, drilling, discovery, appraisal); Portfolio analysis; New Venture Lithium evaluation; Lithium Prospect generation, evaluation, and review; Technical audit; Geoscience skill pool management; Strategic vision for global exploration program; Staff development.

Ricardo is responsible for setting and achieving aligned divisional goals, in cooperation with Managers of Development, Drilling, HSE, Governmental Affairs, Procurement, Finance, and HR departments. He is the primary focal point for exploration communications with governmental agencies, including work program, budget, and AFE approvals, and responsible for establishing corporate guidelines for technical assurance in mining lithium and REE exploration.

During the current trend towards net zero energy transition his team identify, evaluate, recommend, and deliver new business opportunities, including international new play and prospect generation related with battery metal strategy.

Currently, he manages and led lithium portfolio of exploration opportunities, including operation in 8 salt flats, more than 330.000 hectares. Ricardo led successful execution of current major capital project on Battery Metal Raw Material Exploration in Argentinian Puna. Development new methodologies and exploration workflows for salt flat geological models, increasing asset values and decreasing the risk. Ricardo petroleum global knowledge spread across the full upstream spectrum and he contends the lithium brine industry has more similarities to the oil & gas industry than to traditional mining. Litica flag ship project “Pozuelos” has increase their resources three times since Litica applied his cutting-edge workflow.

Yue Jianhua
Director of Discipline Construction Department in CUMT, China

Dr. YUE Jianhua,Professor of China University of Mining and Technology, and the director of Center of Deep Sea Science and Engineering at CUMT. Dr. YUE Jianhua received his BSc(1986) in Marine Geophysical Exploration from Tongji University, and MSc (1991) in Applied Geophysics and PhD (1997) in Coal & Oil Geology and Exploration from China University of Mining and Technology.

He joined the School of Geodesy and Geophysics at CUMT in 1986 as a lecturer, and joined the School of Resource and Geosciences as associate professor in 1995 and professor in 2000. He once served as the assistant dean and vice dean of the School of Resource and Geosciences (2000-2003) and the director of the Office of Science and Technology (2004-2007) of CUMT. As director of International Office of CUMT, he has served since 2007. He has been the secretary-general of Sino-Germany Center of Energy and Ecological Remediation since 2009, and the chief scientist of Jiangsu Province Key Laboratory of CO2 Capture and Storage since 2010. His main interests are Electrical and Electromagnetic Methods, and Environmental and Engineering Geophysics.

He has authored or co-authored 6 books and more than 130 papers. He obtained various honors and awards for his scientific researches, including the top talent in Jiangsu Province New Century “333” Talent Project in 1999, and the outstanding professional talent in Coal Mining Industry in 2000; the winner of the Sun Yueqi Excellent Young Scholar Award and the gainer of the “May 1st” labor medal of Jiangsu Province.

He is the member of national expert group of State Administration of Work Safety of China, the standing member of Chinese Geophysical Society (CGS), and the member of D & P Committee of SEG. He is also the vice director of Jiangsu Geophysical Society.

David Khoza
Executive Manager, Council for Geoscience, South Africa

David Khoza is geophysicist who’s worked in minerals exploration, mining and geoscience research. After completing a BSc (Honours) degree in geophysics, David joined BHP Billiton’s mineral exploration division, conducting geophysical surveys primarily in Africa. David took a break and then back into academia to complete a PhD, which focussed on understanding the tectonic evolution of the Southern African lithosphere using magnetotelluric data. Following that, he joined Anglo American’s Technical Solution department supporting several business units in mining, green and brownfield exploration and research efforts within Anglo American. He then joined SPECTREM AIR, primarily focused on airborne electromagnetic data processing, modelling, interpretation and research.

He holds a BSc (Geology and Physics), BSc Honours (Geophysics) and a PhD (Geophysics) from the University of the Witwatersrand, specialising in EM methods.

David Khoza is currently an Executive Manager: Applied Geoscience at the Council for Geoscience leading the national geoscience mapping programme in South Africa.

Balazs Nemeth
Principal Geoscientist, BHP, Editor in Chief, Interpretation, Canada

Balazs Nemeth is a Principal Geophysicist working for BHP in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Balazs is in charge for the development and execution of geophysical components of exploration programs. His work included the adoption of 3D seismic quantitative interpretation methodology for potash deposit characterization, development petrophysical interpretation of well log data, and characterization of near surface using geophysics. Balazs is one of the Competent Persons responsible for the reporting of BHP potash resources. Through BHP, Balázs is also involved with projects of the Carbon Capture and Storage Knowledge Centre, by providing technical support and advice.

Prior joining BHP he held a position of Senior Geophysicist at Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (now Nutrine) where he was involved in the research and application of various geophysical techniques both at surface and underground.

He earned his Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Saskatchewan and participated in the Canadian Lithoprobe Geoscience project, where his research topic included investigation of crustal and mantle structure of Central Canada using seismic refraction and reflection methods.

He worked several years in Hungary for the Hungarian Geophysical Institute (ELGI) in various roles and was responsible for the technological advancement, design, and execution of seismic reflection surveys. He is member of SEG, CSEG, and EAEG. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Interpretation journal published by SEG/AAPG. He has three children, likes to travel, enjoys spending time outdoors and commuting to work on a bicycle year-round.

Patrick Highsmith
President and Chief Executive Officer, Timberline Resources, FireFox Gold, Colorado School of Mines

Patrick has over 30 years of international experience in the mining industry, including operational, exploration and business development roles with major companies such as Newmont Mining, BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue Metals Group. He has also founded and/or served in leadership roles for publicly listed junior companies such as: Lithium One, Copper One, Bellhaven Copper & Gold, Pure Energy Minerals, and Idaho Champion Gold Mines. He is currently President & CEO of Timberline Resources and Chairman of FireFox Gold.

Patrick holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geological Engineering and a Master of Science in Economic Geology (Geochemistry) from the Colorado School of Mines. He has worked on more than 350 projects around the world and has specialized technical expertise in gold, copper, and lithium exploration. He has enjoyed leading and collaborating on many multi-disciplinary teams during a period when integration of technology for drill targeting has been essential.

Patrick has also led numerous transactions in the mining sector including alliances, joint ventures, strategic investments, off-take agreements, IPO’s, capital markets financings and corporate sales and mergers. He is perhaps most passionate about helping to forge a business out of the science of discovery.

Lindsay Ross
Director and Exploration Geologist, Cherryvale Partners Pty Ltd (Australia)

Lindsay graduated from the University of Southern Queensland with an Applied Science Degree in Geology and has spent ten years working in minerals exploration and development for gold and base metals across Australia and West Africa and a further twenty years in Oil & Gas Exploration and New Ventures, onshore and offshore Australasia, and various international assignments.

In business Lindsay sees increasingly complex systems and new hierarchies based upon entities which demonstrate greater efficiencies and resilience over competitors. In this context he sees evolution in business by leveraging competitive advantages as key for energy and mining companies and considers that evolution will not be achieved by devolving or discarding hard won corporate experience and knowledge, which he considers to be the pathway some of the larger oil & gas companies are taking. The integrated energy resource business model as he sees it is achievable by both the Mining Houses and the Oil & Gas companies, each pathway made achievable by increasing leverage upon intrinsic technical competencies and potentially, more effectively in strategic partnership. Many elements are common, but the Future Integrated Energy Resources company as Lindsay sees it encompasses and is accountable for the energy, structural and critical minerals inputs to drive its renewable/sustainable energy elements and leverages common geoscience and engineering skills to explore and produce in an acceptable and sustainable model. Further, Lindsay contends that there exists linear vertical and horizontal integration and disintegration pathways, for both Oil & Gas companies and Mining Houses yet there exists much more opportunity for growth in the non—linear space between the vertical and horizontal axes, through a combination of vertical and horizontal integration of the corporation into new ventures including critical minerals extraction, processing, power generation, manufacturing and given the non-linear space the corporation would be operating, most likely some new products and services hitherto unknown.

Lindsay is a member of the AAPG’s ‘Critical Minerals Committee’ and is working on strategies for developing 'Integrated Future Energy Resource Industries' by leveraging geoscientific and engineering competitive advantages intrinsic to oil, gas and minerals industries and extending these techniques into Critical Minerals and the new energy economy. Lindsay is a member of AAPG, PESA, AusIMM, and SEG.

Scott Hammond
President, Bell Geospace (United States)

Scott Hammond was born and raised in Northwest Indiana in a suburb of Chicago. In 1980 he received an Honors Physics Degree from Purdue University summa cum laude prior to moving to Texas to start a career in the service sector of the Oil & Gas business.

Scott worked with Schlumberger as a wireline logging engineer in Corpus Christi, Texas and spent fifteen years with the company. After working in the field, logging wells in the Gulf of Mexico, Scott spent time in sales and went on to manage several of Schlumberger’s district offices in Oklahoma.

In 1997 Scott joined Bell Geospace as Operations Manager in Houston, Texas. At that time, Bell Geospace was starting up with a Gravity Gradiometer technology which had been adapted from the Defense industry with Lockheed Martin. Gravity Gradiometer technology measures minute differences in the earth’s density to yield information on geologic structures in the subsurface. It was first introduced to the oil & gas industry on boats by Bell Geospace in early 1998 and was first flown for minerals exploration by BHP a year later.

Scott took over as President of Bell Geospace in 2000. He led the implementation of Bell’s Full Tensor version of the Gravity Gradiometer (FTG) onto airborne surveys. Under Scott’s leadership, Bell Geospace put the FTG on a Turbo DC-3. This gave Bell a global footprint by enabling them to mobilize surveys much faster and work in different environments identifying host geologies indicative of hydrocarbons and mineral ore bodies all around the world.

Bell now flies 3 Air-FTG® systems for clients as diverse as Major Oil & Gas companies, large mining companies looking for rare earth elements, critical minerals, copper, nickel and gold, diamond explorers, small independent mining explorers and Government and Educational Research bodies. Alongside conventional data acquisition jobs, Air-FTG® technology is finding a place in emerging energy related fields such as geothermal, carbon solutions and other near surface applications. Most recently, Scott has been responsible for leading a partnership with Transparent Earth Geophysics to install a GTz gravimeter alongside the existing FTG to significantly enhance the company’s product offering.

Scott champions the role of airborne exploration in keeping up with the global demand on resources as world populations grow. Under his stewardship, product and operational priorities are set and followed to ensure continuous improvements in signal processing, data interpretation, and integration. This ultimately drives an increasingly effective gravity gradient data product and ensures that the company keeps a strong competitive advantage.

Bell Geospace has offices in Houston Texas, Edinburgh Scotland and Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to efficiently service their clients and support Operations around the world.

Scott currently lives in Montgomery Texas – north of Houston with his wife and dogs and stays busy with his church and spending time with his eight grandchildren.


Business of Applied Geoscience: Business of Mining Geophysics
Colorado Convention Center
700 14th St
Denver, Colorado 80202
United States

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