Realtime Ore Quality Assessment

44 Submissions
$20,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview


The Seeker for this Challenge is looking for a method or technology for the automated, real-time assessment of the quality of oilsands ore in segments of a mine based on the exposed mine face of the segment. The proposed method must be nonintrusive and not require physical contact with or sampling of the ore.

Oilsands ore is a primary source for bitumen, a heavy hydrocarbon used in the production of a variety of petroleum-based products ranging from fuel to asphalt. Oilsands mining utilizes large shovels to cut into the mine face to excavate the ore.  The ore contains approximately 7-16% bitumen along with 1-8% formation water and around 76% mineral solids. Ore with bitumen content less than 7% is considered waste and mining operations focus on the higher content ores for excavation. Shovel operators typically rely on a mine plan based on preliminary core samples showing the areas of high and low bitumen content to optimize their initial excavations but also rely on their own judgment based on visual indicators to determine whether a segment of the mine face possesses high, medium, low, or waste quality material. The Seeker is soliciting ideas for methods or technologies to automate this process of assessing bitumen content of ore for different segments of the exposed mine face. Any proposed solution must be nonintrusive, capable of operating day and night, be impervious to heavy impacts and vibrations, and operate in extreme summer and winter conditions.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted and there will be a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants the Seeker a right to use any information included in their proposal.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on December 14, 2023.

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Bitumen is a heavy hydrocarbon (viscosity of 200,000 cP at room temperature) used in the production of a wide variety of petroleum-based products such as fuel and construction materials. Bitumen is primarily produced from oilsands ore excavated in surface mining operations using shovels, as illustrated in Figure 1. The shovel cuts into the mine face and subsequently transfers the material into large off-road haul trucks for transportation to a processing facility. This mining is continuous and operates 24 hours a day during days and nights and all weather conditions including extreme cold (below -40 °C) with snow and ice as well as high temperatures (30 °C) in the summer.

Figure 1. A shovel in the process of excavating the mine face and loading a haul truck.

The shovel operator relies on an initial mine plan to identify the optimal excavation points along the mine face. In addition to this, the operator judgment plays a crucial role in determining the quality of different segments of the mine face, whether they possess high, medium, low quality or waste material. Ore with bitumen content lower than 7% is considered low quality. The target surface dimensions on the mine face span between 10 to 40 meters in width and 30 meters in height. Additional information about the process can be found in these references:

In addition to bitumen, oilsands ore contains formation water and mineral solids with the mineral solids consisting of coarse solids (particles larger than 44 µm), fine solids (particles less than 44 µm), and clay (with particles less than 2 µm). Approximate oilsands composition is:

  • Bitumen – 7-16%
  • Formation water – 1-8%
  • Mineral solids – ~76%
    • Fine solids – 2-40% (typically kaolinite, illite, and smectite)
    • Clay – 2%
    • Coarse solids - balance

Visually, oilsands ore appears grayish, with higher bitumen content causing the ore to become darker. Figure 2 shows ores of various quality and how they appear on the mine face.

Figure 2. Oilsands ore of varying quality. (A) High (B) Medium (C) Low (D) Waste



The Seeker is searching for ideas on methods or technologies to automate the process of assessing bitumen content of ore for different segments of an exposed mine face in real-time. Automating the process will serve as a crucial tool for the operators, aiding them in making informed decisions about excavation based on the quality of the ore.

The Seeker is primarily interested in solutions with the potential to meet the following requirements:

Must have:

  1. Ability to assess the quality of the ore on an exposed mine face and place into one of four categories based on bitumen content – high (> 11%), medium (9-11%), low (7-9%), and waste (< 7%) – without the need for physical contact or sampling of the ore.
  2. Ability to overcome operational challenges:
    • Operate 24 hours per day under varying lighting conditions
    • Provide real-time data for mine faces that may be excavated within the next hour
    • Withstand heavy mechanical impacts and vibrations
    • Withstand cleaning by pressurized water
  3. Ability to withstand weather challenges:
    • Winters are cold and temperatures may drop below -40 °C
    • Summer temperatures may be above 30 °C
    • Steam is used around the shovel in winter and may reduce visibility
    • Snow and ice are present in wintertime on shove and mine face

Nice to have:

  • Ability to measure the type of fine solids and their respective percentages

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-3 are invited, with ideas about WHAT to do:


This is a Prize Challenge with a guaranteed award, which has the following features:

  • There will be a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. The best solution(s) has the opportunity to win all or part of the guaranteed award of $20,000 USD, as solely determined by the Seeker.
  • The total payout will be $20,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $2,500.
  • By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants the Seeker a royalty-free, perpetual and non-exclusive right to use any information included in their proposal.
  • The Seeker may also issue “Honorable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards.



Please login and register your interest, to complete the submission form.

The submitted proposals must be written in English and can include:

  1. Participation type – you will first be asked to inform us how you are participating in this challenge, as a Solver (Individual) or Solver (Organization).
  2. Solution Stage - the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your solution, TRL1-3 ideation stage, TRL4-6 proof of concept stage, TRL7-9 production ready stage.
  3. Problem & Opportunity - highlight the innovation in your approach to the Problem, its point of difference, and the specific advantages/benefits this brings (up to 500 words).
  4. Solution Overview - detail the features of your solution and how they address the Solution Requirements (up to 500 words, there is space to add more, and to add any appropriate supporting data, diagrams, etc).
  5. Experience - Expertise, use cases and skills you or your organization have in relation to your proposed solution. The Seeker may wish to partner at the conclusion of the Challenge; please include a statement indicating your interest in partnering (up to 500 words).
  6. Solution Risks - any risks you see with your solution and how you would plan for this (up to 500 words).
  7. Timeline, capability and costs - describe what you think is required to deliver the solution, estimated time and cost (up to 500 words).
  8. References - provide links to any publications or press releases of relevance (up to 500 words).

Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

Find out more about participation in Wazoku Crowd Challenges.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on December 14, 2023.
Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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