If there is a silver lining to the recent mineral industry downturn, it is the rise of innovation and disruptive ideas. The latest slump inspired geologist and entrepreneur, Andrew Randell, to create Hive, a geological crowd consulting and mentoring service.
Crowdsourcing connects businesses with groups of people to access knowledge, funds, labour, or creativity for a specific purpose. Randell saw a way to use this modern, solution-driven business model to keep young graduates from leaving the struggling industry and to help prevent the brain-drain that will inevitably hit when the industry recovers.
“Hive creates opportunities for companies to move a project forward at a competitive rate, but at the same time, engages graduates who need relevant work experience,” explains Randell.
Hive takes data from an exploration project and, under the guidance of a registered professional geologist, divides the work amongst a willing group of university students and recent graduates. Since its inception in 2015, over 30 Hive participants have worked collaboratively on four Canadian projects and one in the Philippines.
“This type of hands-on mentoring provides practical experience on real data that isn’t taught at school,” says Randell, “The students and graduates have approached me through word-of-mouth. They are self-selected and motivated.”
The first prospector to take a chance on the Hive concept was William Koe-Carson, who was looking to advance the McConnells Jest project in the Yukon. McConnells Jest is nestled between the Keno Hill mine and several advanced-stage projects, including Victoria Gold Corp’s Eagle and Dublin Gulch projects, in an active and prosperous area of the central Yukon.
“In what I think we can all definitively say has been a bear market until very recently, the opportunity to continually advance the project and produce quality, professional results is worth its weight in gold,” says Koe-Carson, who handed over more than eight gigabytes of information, including geochemical data, photographs, claims information and field diaries, to Randell after he pitched the Hive concept to him at a conference in 2014.
Randell and a team of four Hive participants organized and analyzed the McConnells Jest data to produce a comprehensive report that follows the structure of a National Instrument 43-101 for the client in April 2015. The report identified some prospective new structures and was used to apply for funding through the Yukon Mineral Exploration Program, resulting in the first official Hive field trip in August 2016.
Together with recent geology graduate, Fraser Kirk, and a biologist, Randell travelled to the Yukon on a lean budget to survey the infrastructure, carry out geological mapping, collect samples for geochemical analysis, and begin a baseline environmental study.
“The work undertaken by the Hive group helped direct future exploration work and brought new data that became the cornerstone of raising funds for exploration in 2016,” says Koe-Carson, “This resulted in the discovery of a rich, new mineralized gold zone on the property.”
Hive clients are happy to advance their projects at a competitive price and bask in the altruistic benefit of helping young geologists. But for the under-employed young geologists themselves, who are paid a modest hourly rate for their efforts, it provides relevant, hands-on work experience that is hard to find during challenging economic times. As for the industry as a whole, it keeps the talent pipeline stocked with trained, motivated geologists.
“As a recent Masters graduate entering the mining industry during a downturn, it was incredibly difficult to find opportunities to exercise my advanced geological training,” says Kirk. “Working with Hive, I was able to learn about new deposit styles and the key factors of reporting for different stages of project advancement.”
Hive exposes the participants to the full exploration project experience beyond the textbook geology knowledge gained at university. Tasks range from data management and logistics, to field safety, community engagement and environmental monitoring and, in the course of a project, they may be exposed to regulatory permits, memorandums of understanding, non-disclosure agreements and more.
“Without the experience of the Hive, I may have been forced to consider my career options outside of the mineral exploration industry,” says Kirk, “Since working with the Hive, I have been fortunate enough to gain a short term contract with a junior exploration company, close to McConnells Jest.”
Randell plans to grow the Hive, even as commodity prices improve and investor confidence returns to the mineral industry. He hopes it will inspire the industry will implement more modern business ideas, like crowdsourcing talent and practical mentoring schemes.
“Hive helps retain graduates and provides companies with an opportunity to employ these individuals after, given their in-depth project knowledge,” says Randell, “These graduates blend the traditional business of exploration with contemporary perspectives on collaborative project work, fast-tracking the much needed modernization of our industry.”