The people, science and technology behind discovery

Subscribe to the Magazine

Get new articles sent directly to
your mailbox.


Join the network

Twitter Updates Group Forum

Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.


News & Views

News Archive

April 29, 2015

Signs of life in mineral exploration

The latest Monthly Industry Monitor from SNL Metals & Mining reports a welcome improvement in exploration activity in March....

April 28, 2015

High Priority Drill Targets Defined On Margaret Lake Property

Margaret Lake Diamonds Inc. in conjunction with its geophysical consultants, has completed a review of airborne gravity gradiometry ("AGG") data acquired for the Margaret Lake property in late 2014. The data review has identified 12 high priority targets that require evaluation by drilling...

April 23, 2015

Junior Mining Companies Have Taken A Senior Role

For the past decade, junior mining companies have outperformed senior miners at finding new mineral deposits in Canada and generating wealth for investors...

April 23, 2015

Is This Where Investors Should Be Looking When Oil Recovers?

When oil prices recover - and plenty of analysts think the climb back up will start soon - Canada's western frontier of Saskatchewan and neighboring Alberta will 'still have the edge', according to a report from TD Economics...

April 20, 2015

Exploring new options

In Mining Magazine's April 2015 Issue, Assistant Editor Aibhe Goodbody examines how innovations in mineral exploration are even more important during a downturn, and what's new in exploration drilling and software...

April 17, 2015

Cameco strikes deal to provide India with 7.1 million pounds of uranium

Cameco's first contract with India gives it access to the world's second-fastest-growing consumer of uranium just behind China...

April 8, 2015

New data on DAP: SRTM 30m for Europe and Africa

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) 1 Arc-Second Global elevation data at a resolution of 1 arc-second (30 meters) are now available for Europe and Africa on the Geosoft Public DAP Server...

April 7, 2015

IBAAS 2015 symposium focuses on development of aluminium industry in China

The International Bauxite, Alumina & Aluminium Society (IBAAS) is hosting an international symposium on "The Development and Future of Aluminium Industry in China - Reality and Dream” November 25-27, in cooperation with the China Aluminium International Engineering Corporation Limited (CHALIECO) and Suzhou Research Institute for Non-ferrous Metals Co. Ltd (SINR)...

March 26, 2015

Medgold and Centerra Start Drilling at Lagares, Portugal

Medgold's first drilling campaign on the Lagares project in Portugal, a 3,000 metre diamond core drilling program, started yesterday targeting high-grade gold mineralization identified from recent channel-chip sampling. The Lagares project is joint ventured to Centerra Gold Inc...

February 27, 2015

Massive Amounts of Saharan Dust Fertilize the Amazon Rainforest

Every year, millions of tons of nutrient-rich Saharan dust cross the Atlantic Ocean, bringing vital phosphorus and other fertilizers to depleted Amazon soils. New study quantifies the connection between Earth's largest temperate desert and its largest tropical rainforest...

February 25, 2015

NexGen Drills Best Angled Hole to Date: Discovers New High Grade Zone at Arrow

NexGen Energy Ltd. announced ongoing results from their winter 2015 drilling program at their our 100% owned Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

February 24, 2015

Phase II drilling underway on Kootenay's La Negra

Kootenay Silver Inc. announced that camp upgrades are complete and Phase II drilling has now commenced on its La Negra Silver discovery, contained within the Promontorio Mineral Belt in Sonora, Mexico...

February 23, 2015

Explorer Speaker Series at the PDAC

Geosoft's Explorer Speaker Series at the PDAC 2015 includes presentations on Peregrine's Chidliak Project and Cameco's initiatives to increase efficiency and 'harvest time' through data organization...

February 18, 2015

Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History Scientifically Characterized

The effects of dam removal are better known as a result of several new studies released this week by government, tribal and university researchers...

February 18, 2015

Exeter outlines the significance of its Caspiche Project water discovery

Exeter Resource Corporation has announced further positive results from the expanded water exploration drilling program for its Caspiche gold-copper project in northern Chile...

February 17, 2015

Earthstar Geographics Releases Arctic Ocean 15-Meter Satellite Imagery Mosaic

In response to the rapidly increasing demand for high quality geodata of the Arctic Ocean, Earthstar Geographics LLC has compiled a detailed satellite imagery mosaic of the entire region and released it in map projections optimized for visualizing the northern polar areas...

February 11, 2015

Geophysics and Geology together for Discovery: Geosoft at ASEG-PESA

Geosoft's program for the ASEG-PESA, February 15-18 in Perth, includes a workshop on practical geophysical workflows for resolving common problems in minerals targeting...

February 9, 2015

Pilot Gold Reports Final 2014 Results from Columbaz Discovery at TV Tower

Pilot Gold announced the final 2014 results from its third gold rich porphyry discovery at TV Tower, located 6.5 kilometres north of the Valley and Hilltop porphyries...

February 5, 2015

Coastal Gold finds the high grade

Coastal Gold has defined a high grade resource at its 100%-owned Hope Brook gold deposit in Newfoundland by developing a 3D model that has tighter constraints and focuses on higher grade drill results.

February 4, 2015

Non-seismic Geophysics

Finding Petroleum is hosting a half-day event on the role of non-seismic geophysical techniques. Are they coming of age? Reserve your space for this free event, being held in London, February 19.

January 27, 2015

Factors Driving 2015 U.S. Oil Output

Rig counts are a highly imperfect guide to future oil production but they are one of the few readily available statistics on oilfield activity so it is unwise to dismiss their importance entirely...

January 23, 2015

Will 2015 Break this ‘Dry Spell’ for New Discoveries?

Steve Todoruk, a broker with Sprott Global Resource Investments, explained in Sprott’s Thoughts recently why ‘juniors’ should look for new discoveries by drilling into the unexplored depths near existing mines...

January 20, 2015

Eni Wins Two Exploration Licenses in Norway

Italian oil and gas group Eni said on Tuesday it had won two exploration licenses in the Barents sea and in the North Sea in Norway...

Closing the Discovery Gap:
Exploring Deeper into the Subsurface

As spending goes up, discovery goes down:
How do we close the widening gap?

By Virginia Heffernan

The cost of mineral exploration continues to rise, with global spending heading towards US$14 billion this year, yet rates of mineral discovery have been on the decline since the 1980s. Is there a way to reverse the trend?


Professor Bill Morris and Research Scientist Hernan Ugalde of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University

Perhaps, says Professor Bill Morris of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University, but only if explorers begin to integrate geoscience information in such a way that they can see through rock and overburden to find buried deposits.

"The reality is that the old days when prospectors would go out there and find a mineral deposit on the surface are gone," he says. "We have to expand our search into deeper areas and use newer technology to enhance our search capabilities."

That shift in exploration methodology will require training, more efficient use of exploration data, and interdisciplinary cooperation: while geophysics may be the most obvious tool for exploring the subsurface, it cannot be used in isolation.

"The new frontier is the integration of geoscience information," says Morris.  "Geophysics will take you so far, but geophysics on its own will never give you a complete answer."


The Bathurst Camp in the lead-zinc mining region in New Brunswick
(Click to enlarge)

In Canada, the federal government is taking the threat of declining discovery rates seriously by committing $25 million over five years to find new base metal reserves in established mining communities. One of the main components of the Geological Survey of Canada's Targeted Geoscience Initiative (TGI), now in its third phase, is the integration of industry and government data collected over the years to conjure up new images of old camps with the hope of discovering previously undetected ore.

The TGI also aims to produce new geological, geophysical maps and geochemical maps of the target areas, create three-dimensional representations of areas with the highest base metal potential, and come up with new and improved methods to map hidden and deep-seated base metal deposits.

In the Flin Flon mining camp of northern Manitoba, for instance, the TGI completed a 2-D high-resolution seismic survey to help identify buried VMS deposits after the GSC's geological mapping in the area suggested a different structural model for the mining camp that was best tested by seismic tools. The Flin Flon deposits have high acoustic impedance relative to typical host rocks because of their mineral make-up (pyrite, pyrrhotite, sphalerite, and chalcopyrite).

"Before we turned up, the exploration techniques were pretty standard," says Simon Hammer, TGI's program manager in Ottawa, who explains that seismic has not been traditionally been used in mineral exploration, especially in relatively urban areas such as Flin Flon that have background noise. "The fact that the major stakeholder in the area then decided to follow up with 3D seismic clearly indicates that we were able to influence their exploration strategy."

Another TGI target area, and one of the focuses of Morris's research, is the Bathurst lead-zinc mining region in New Brunswick, an old camp that desperately needs new life. The area's main mine, Brunswick, is expected to close by 2010 and maybe even earlier given current metal prices, sucking about $100 million per year out of the local economy and putting 800 people out of work. Junior Blue Note Mining is also preparing to shut down the Caribou and Restigouche lead-zinc mines after less than a year of commercial production.


Vegetation and glacial overburden make it difficult to map the geology
of the Bathurst Camp.

The VMS deposits of the Bathurst camp lie in an ancient back-arc basin broken and twisted by multi-generational folding, faulting, and thrusting of several geological blocks and slivers. But the complex geology is difficult to map because most of the surface is covered by vegetation and glacial overburden, says Hernan Ugalde, a research scientist at McMaster working closely with Morris in partnership with TGI.

That's where geophysical surveys integrated with geochemical and drilling data will play a crucial role in assessing the near-surface and subsurface geology and potentially pinpointing new mineralization.

To that end, Hernan is running detailed gravity surveys (100-200 m spacing) over three VMS deposits in Bathurst - Chester, Caribou and Armstrong B – to test a theory that there is a correlation between the vertical gravity gradient and the presence of mineral deposits in the Bathurst camp.

The push from government and academia is a good first step, but the private sector must also get smarter and more efficient about how it deals with exploration data in order to make new discoveries, the McMaster researchers say. Junior companies in particular are missing the opportunity - for lack of knowledge and/or manpower - to use technology in their favour.

"Junior exploration companies, and even some senior companies, will often chase a geophysical anomaly," says Ugalde. "They may have very detailed geophysical information, but instead of going the extra mile to analyze the data and do some modeling to see, for example, what the actual plunge of the orebody is, they just drill it. But if you don't know the angle of your orebody, you can miss it."


Caribou Deposit: Magnetic Refinements (Worms and Euler Deconvolution)

Armstrong B Deposit: Structural Mapping.
Geology and multiscale edge analysis (Worms)

Ugalde and Morris urge companies to slow down and hire the expertise required to analyze their data properly, especially in this era of non-stop data generation.

"It's the difference between brute force and finesse in exploration," says Morris. "Should you put more money into boreholes, or should you be spending a little more money and time trying to formulate a model?

Morris says the process of creating an exploration model has become much easier and more efficient with the advancement of exploration software, such as Geosoft, which provides a platform for integrating different datasets (e.g. magnetic, geochemical, topographic), bringing them all together as a single resource.

The ability to view these images in 3-D through GIS is also a crucial breakthrough, he says, because ore deposits are, by nature, three dimensional. The latest versions of Oasis montaj and Target, Geosoft's borehole data visualization software, allow geoscientists to work seamlessly between their Geosoft and GIS (ESRI) files without leaving the Geosoft environment.

Increased access to data and the technology to process high volumes of data in meaningful ways are two main ingredients in the new search for mineral deposits. Training is the third. As part of its mandate, TGI3 is placing significant emphasis on training university students in the broad range of skills they will require to serve the mining sector, including providing them with summer jobs in the field.

Morris agrees that the industry badly needs an influx of qualified people that can make sense of data. With lots of user friendly software available, almost anyone can generate images, but only skilled personnel can separate what is meaningful in the data from what is not.

"You need direction from people with training who know how to integrate the data and understand what is behind those purple dots that you are chasing," he says. "It is in our nature to push the data set as hard as we can, to extract as much information as we can. But you're doing that at the expense of reality in some cases."