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29 July 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Dr Martin Clark
Dr Martin Clark, the founder of the MAGIC (Multi-purpose Aerial Geological Image Classification) initiative. MAGIC can obtain geological and structural information that is critical for making informed decisions in exploration and mineral extraction processes.

Mining has historically been described as a boom-and-bust industry, where fluctuations in mineral prices could result in extreme success or bankruptcy. Successful mining companies closely monitor assets/expenditures, risks, and other parameters associated with their business to best ensure their longevity. In most mineral industries, there are a few competitors that dominate the delivery of a mineral resource. As a result, technological development, along with other factors, are critical to ensure that these companies’ business remains viable and protected.

This is according to post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Geology, Dr Martin Clark.

Drone technology: better, faster, safer

He says technological development in mining generally translates to how a company can extract a resource from the ground better, faster, and safer. 

Dr Clark believes the rapid development of drone technology represents a shift in the toolbox that mining companies can employ.

“Drones can collect a great deal of data randomly over vast or small areas within hours, historically accomplished by mapping campaigns which can last months to years. Drones can also collect data in areas which are difficult and dangerous for humans to get to. These include cliff faces or rock walls that are difficult and dangerous to get close to, as well as stretches of land where dense vegetation, inaccessible terrain, and even atmospheric dangers become factors which reduce or modify the scope of exploration work,” he said. 

Expanding application of drones

Dr Clark’s work specifically focuses on expanding the applications for which drones are used. “I assess what and how good the imaging capabilities of drones are, use the imagery to generate 3-D models to drive scientific observation, and yield results which can help companies to extract resources. This initiative is called MAGIC (Multi-purpose Aerial Geological Image Classification),” he said. 



“MAGIC aims to collect geological and structural information that is critical for making informed decisions in exploration and mineral extraction processes,” he added.

Dr Clark is not only the founder of MAGIC; he also drives multiple aspects of the initiative including education, research, and business development. 

In 2013, when he was busy with his doctorate, there was already a spark of interest in using drones to address geological questions. At that time, Dr Clark was working with remotely sensed high-resolution LiDAR imagery to better understand geological structures at the Sudbury Mining Camp in Canada. The interest became a reality in 2018, when he applied this initiative during his post-doctoral fellowship at the UFS.

Now and the future

“At present, there are no direct mining projects underway, but projects are expected to begin in 2020. Drone operation and image-analysis techniques are currently being refined for industry,” he said. 

Besides his work with drones, Dr Clark also work in the fields of structural geology, remote sensing, and geospatial data analysis.  

News Archive

Chemistry gets substantial grants
2013-06-10

 

At the experimental setup of the high temperature reduction oven for research in heterogeneous catalysis are, front from left: Maretha Serdyn (MNS Cluster prestige PhD bursar), Nceba Magqi (Sasol employee busy with his MSc in Chemistry) and Dr Alice Brink (Formal MNS Cluster postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry); back Profs Jannie Swarts (Head: Physical Chemistry), André Roodt, and Ben Bezuidenhoudt (Sasol Professor in Organic and Process Chemistry).
10 June 2013

Three research groups in the Department of Chemistry received substantial grants to the value of R4,55 million. The funding includes bursaries for students and post-doctoral fellows, mobility grants, running costs and equipment support, as well as dedicated funds for two young scientists in the UFS Prestige Scholar Programme, Drs Lizette Erasmus and Alice Brink.

The funding comes from Sasol, the THRIP programme of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and PetLabs Pharmaceuticals for the overarching thrust in Organic Synthesis, Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Catalysis. The programme has a broad focuse on different fundamental and applied aspects of process chemistry. Research groups of Profs Andreas Roodt (Inorganic), Jannie Swarts (Physical) and Ben Bezuidenhoudt (Organic / Process), principal members of the focus area of (Green) Petrochemicals in the Materials and Nanosciences Strategic Research Cluster (MNS Cluster) will benefit from the grant.

This funding was granted based on the continued and high-level outputs by the groups, which resulted in more than 40 papers featuring in international chemistry publications in merely the past year. A few papers also appeared in the top experimental inorganic chemistry journal from the American Chemical Society, Inorganic Chemistry. These high-impact papers address important issues in catalysis under the UFS Material and Nanosciences Research Cluster initiative, as well as other aspects of fundamental chemistry, but with an applied approach and focus.

Prof Andreas Roodt, Distinguished Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry, said the grants will enable the three research groups to move forward in their respective research areas associated with petrochemicals and other projects, and enable additional students in the department to benefit from it. It will also ensure that these groups can continue and maintain their research on different molecular and nano-scale materials. Current experiments include conversions under extremely high gas pressures (typical 100 times that in motor car tyres). This takes place at the molecular level and at preselected nano-surfaces, to convert cheaper feed-stream starting materials into higher value-added products for use as special additives in gasoline and other speciality chemicals.

The funding support forms part of the Hub-and-Spoke initiative at Sasol under which certain universities and specifically the UFS Department of Chemistry have been identified for strategic support for research and development. The department and the UFS gratefully acknowledge this continued and generous support from all parties concerned.

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