Halifax-based Scient is soft launching its technology for analyzing mining core samples by setting up its equipment for a limited time at a facility in the town of Stellarton, NS.

The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Core Library stores rock cores collected by geologists — long tubes of rock that mining companies drill to gauge the location of mineral reserves.

The provincially owned library is considering disposing of about 700,000 metres worth of core samples due to a lack of storage space, and Scient aims to first create a digital record of those cores and their contents.

Masoud Aali, at the time a postdoc in geophysics at Dalhousie University, founded Scient about two years ago based on his academic research. The company uses a hardware and software suite to scan and analyze the contents of core samples, offering what it describes as a 60 percent cost reduction compared to manual analysis.

“What we do is empower geologists and mining development companies by identifying minerals that are indistinguishable by human eyes,” said Aali in an interview. “Scient’s business model is around offering data as a service.

“The service includes … digitizing the physical samples, data processing and data conditioning, and also interpretation, which relates to converting data into geological insight —  something that mining companies or professional geologists can readily incorporate into a day-to-day workflow.”

Normally, human experts use visual inspections of core samples to make best guest estimates of where to find natural resources. But 98 percent of mineral exploration projects ultimately fail, including due to imperfect location choices.

Scient’s technology instead analyzes the core samples using a combination of hyperspectral imaging, which can see light outside the visible wavelengths, and artificial intelligence.

Aali said he does not know exactly how long Scient’s equipment will stay at the Core Library, but he does not plan to leave it there indefinitely.

“Having the instruments available to end users makes the process of collecting feedback from them much easier,” he said.

“Educating the customer is part of the process. By having the equipment available to them free of charge at the core library, they get to see what is the cutting edge technology that is being used in the mining sector, and see how the equipment and the workflow can benefit the work that they are doing.”

In recent months, Scient has been working with NRC-IRAP to further develop its technology, as well as submitting a proposal to Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources that led to the Stellarton initiative.

So far, Aali heads up a team of six people, including two freshly hired software developers and a scientific programmer — a niche domain that specializes in writing code for computational science or mathematics.

In addition to raising a seed round beginning in about six months, he plans to hire several more people soon, including a project coordinator.