Jon Russill, Cathryn MacCallum & the INFACT Team – Exploration decision-making – a more holistic idea

1 SRK Exploration Services Ltd., 12 St Andrew’s Crescent, Cardiff, CF10 3DD, UK

2 Sazani Consulting, Units 1 & 2 Darkgate Buildings, 3 Red Street, Carmarthen, SA31 1QL, UK

3 INFACT is an research and innovation project focussing on greater acceptability in exploration. It is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme

This talk is about early-stage mineral exploration, from identifying prospective areas and selecting exploration targets, through the first stages of fieldwork to point of establishing a Mineral Resource.

Too often, the decisions that are taken along this journey focus only on mineral potential and maximising project value. Comparatively little is invested in understanding, from the outset, the ESG context of an area and how this could impact project development. It is rare for greenfield explorers to engage with stakeholders to best-effect, often leaving this critical work to geologists with no expertise in such matters despite it being the first contact with communities. First impressions count, right?

We all know that Social Licence is the number one risk to mineral projects, so why is it often only addressed at advanced stages of exploration when large amounts have been spent and many aspects may be past the point of no return? There are some easy answers to this, and it is clear that ESG assessment must happen much earlier.

Getting to grips with ESG good-practice is a major challenge facing explorers today. The Exploration Decision Tree presented here was developed by SRK and the INFACT project with this in mind; it is a practical tool showing when and what should be done to understand ESG risks and opportunities, and take proactive steps to make these part of a project. These factors should carry much more weight in exploration decision-making, on a par with technical considerations, and are important enough to pause or stop a project. There are positives too – good ESG practice can reduce risk and add value. We believe that the Exploration Decision Tree will help exploration to take place where it has the best chance of happy outcomes for all stakeholders, including communities.


Jon Russill is a Principal Exploration Geologist with SRK Exploration Services Ltd. He has been with SRK for 13 years and has provided consulting and services to exploration projects around the world, with a focus on Europe and high latitude areas. He lead SRK’s contribution to the EU-funded INFACT project, developing a Discovery Roadmap for more acceptable exploration of Critical Raw Materials in Europe.