Silicon Dale

Hello, World !

This is the first of a series of columns which will discuss particular topics in the general field of computers in mining. As I sit here writing, the April sun is streaming in through the window, the dew is glinting on the grass, and everything in the world is beautiful. It's springtime in middle England. Matlock is the 'capital' of the Peak District, one of the world's longest-established mining provinces. Just a few yards (or metres) from my front door the Romans mined lead nearly 2,000 years ago. One of the world's great lead mines, Mill Close, just north of Matlock, ceased operation only in 1939, and there is still some lead production as a by-product of fluorite mining not far from here. Part of the house I live in was a hat factory 150 years ago, making felt hats for the lead miners. The pub next door, now the 'White Lion', was originally 'The Buddles', named after the ore processing that was carried out around here.

So, who am I and what am I doing writing a column for ESCA ? My name is Stephen Henley. I am a geologist, but also have been working with - and programming - computers since 1967. You may have heard my name in connection with Datamine, the company which I founded, with Peter Stokes, in 1981. As chairman and technical director, I contributed much to the design, development, and marketing of that system until my departure from the company in 1993. There is no space here to describe the circumstances of my leaving Datamine - though that could be the subject of a later column in this series. Since then - well, I have had an 'interesting' career as an independent consultant. This included winning, in 1994, the first Russian gold mining licence to be awarded to a western company; spending a fascinating year in a research environment, at CSIRO in Australia; and participating in a succession of exciting projects, most (but not all) in the former Soviet Union. For the past four years I have also been actively involved in Internet developments - among others, managing the and web sites. And two years ago I moved out of central London to set up home (and office) in one of the more attractive areas of the English countryside, the Derbyshire Dales.

Enough of this. What about the Silicon Dale column ? What am I hoping to achieve - and why is Earth Science Computer Applications devoting the space to it ? Is it not just a big ego trip ? For the answers to all of these questions, only time will tell ! What I am hoping is that Silicon Dale will encourage discussion, remind some of things forgotten, maybe start some new directions of development.

I'd like to start by inviting you to give me some information. Before it's lost in the mists of time, I'd like to try compiling some sort of history of the application of computers in mining. From the early 1980s onward is relatively well known - the period of formation of most of the present mining software companies was in the early to mid 80s. However, before that, a great deal of development work took place within mining companies, government organisations, and universities. It would be interesting to trace through the people and developments from those days and see if we can develop a family tree of mining software. For example, although Datamine was launched as a totally new product in 1984, its structure and design philosophy evolved directly from the G-EXEC geological data handling system at the British Geological Survey, while its mine design ideas came from the open-pit design program and related software developed by Rio Tinto. So, if you know something about the 'early' history of your subject, especially the origins of particular products, please send me an email, to I shall then try to make sense of this in a future Silicon Dale column.

Finally, it's time to invite contributions to a number of discussion groups. There is a new message board at for discussion of matters related to resource/reserve reporting, and the definition of competent persons. Although not directly related to computers in mining, some of the issues involved - particularly those of resource/reserves classification - have direct relevance to developers of mining software. For anyone in the gold industry, there is an email discussion group for the International Liaison Group on Gold Mineralization (ILGGM). You are probably already aware of the geomine, softwaremine, and other mailing lists operated by InfoMine, but did you know of the similar and more extensive list of discussion groups (including geo-gig and geo-computer-models) which have been spawned by various specialist groups of the Geological Society of London ? Details of how to join all (of the above) are given on If you have any information on other relevant message boards or discussion groups, please let me know on I shall add the details to the site, and hope to be able to put together a definitive guide to mining / geological discussion groups for a future Silicon Dale column.

Well, I guess that's all for this month. In the rousing words of the immortal someone or other - onwards and sideways !

Stephen Henley
Matlock, England

Copyright © 2000 Stephen Henley
Hello, World ! Earth Science Computer Applications, v.15, no.8, p.1-2