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

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

February 10, 2016

Cameco's new uranium discovery revealed

Canada's top uranium producer has a significant new discovery nearby to one of its largest existing mines...

February 9, 2016

NexGen Drills Most Intense Mineralization to Date at Arrow

NexGen announces further results from its on-going six rig 30,000 m winter 2016 drill program on its 100% owned Rook I Property in the Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

February 9, 2016

Rio Tinto scales up its big data ambitions

Rio Tinto is opening its "vast troves" of exploration data to junior explorers in the hopes they will help sift for opportunities and supply ideas and labour...

February 8, 2016

Online portal improves access to geoscience data from Africa

The Botswana Geoscience Institute is launching a Geoscience Portal...

February 8, 2016

5 Best Minerals & Fossils To Buy With Your IRS Tax Refund

You just got your IRS tax refund and now you're presented with some cash to go out and buy one of a kind minerals and fossils from your local...

February 5, 2016

World's largest offshore windfarm to be built off Yorkshire coast

Dong Energy makes final investment decision on 1.2-gigawatt project that will power more than a million UK homes...

February 2, 2016

World's top 10 rookie gold mines

These high-grade mines will soon start competing with gold mining's industry leaders ...

January 25, 2016

Exxon Mobil Corp's defiant outlook predicts Canadian and Venezuelan oilsands output will 'quadruple' over next 24 years

In sharp contrast to the grim medium-term prognosis for the Canadian oilsands, Exxon Mobil Corp. is predicting sunnier times for bitumen in the decades ahead...

January 23, 2016

Magnetic Survey Keeps Cost Down

At a contaminated furniture factory site in North Carolina, a reconnaissance magnetic survey was conducted toward the end of a Phase 2 investigation ...

Geothermal Heats Up

Geothermal energy's time has come. One company plans to be the
North American leader

By Graham Chandler

In early 2008, no one knew that Barack Obama would today be president of the United States and that one of his top policies would be to wean his country off imported and non-renewable energy. But that's when geothermal energy firm Magma Energy Corp. of Vancouver (now Alterra Power Corp) was created by mining entrepreneur Ross Beaty and colleagues. After a brief 18 months, the company is well on its way to becoming the pre-eminent explorer, developer and producer of this green renewable energy resource.

"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," quips Francis Monastero, president of this young and talented company, that didn't plan on Mr Obama being elected. "Our reason for getting into the geothermal business was the fundamental strength of the industry of this resource," he says. "We saw it as a business that can provide a large amount of green energy to the market." In Fall 2008, Magma acquired an operating plant at Soda Lake, Nevada (23 MW nameplate capacity) and also has amassed a formidable land position approaching 600,000 acres for exploration—over 100,000 of those in the US Great Basin hotbed. In addition, the company explores in Chile, Argentina and Peru.

Geothermal energy utilizes the earth's natural heat by sourcing superheated water found in fractures in the earth's crust—heated by magma flowing in rocks deep below the surface. Accessed through drilling production wells, the steam is used to generate electricity and then cooled and returned to the source where the cycle is repeated. It's not entirely new: the world's first geothermal electric generating plant, at Lardello, Italy has been producing for more than a century, since 1904.

As a reliable and regular energy source, "it is one of the most prolific of the renewables," says Monastero, who holds a PhD in geophysics and previously headed the US Navy Geothermal Program Office where he learned the business supervising development and operation of the 270 MW Coso geothermal power project at China Lake, California. "It runs practically 24/7," he says. "At our Soda Lake binary facility, we average on line availability in excess of 90 percent of the time—that's comparable to nuclear—and much higher than solar or wind."

How does one go about finding the best places to tap into nature's super-heated steam vaults? Monastero explains. "Geothermal resources occur in proximity to plate boundaries and when you look for geothermal resources that's one of the first orders of sorting that you can do… then look for volcanic occurrences or places where the crust is thin, under tension or extended. Those are the first two sorting levels," he says.

"Then you're fundamentally in a province, in our case the Great Basin [western US]. This is a big place so you need a sufficient geologic data base to quickly sort through hundreds of thousands of acres. You want to be able to identify those locations where there is a confluence of key parameters," he says. "In general you're winnowing large blocks of land away so you can really look at the most promising."

Various sensing methods are used—gravity, electromagnetics (EM), magnetotellurics (MT). "The electrical field exploration tools are both a gift and a curse," says Monastero. "Too frequently people become fooled into believing they have the right answer. Looking strictly at an electrical survey for example, inevitably leads to the wrong decision because they [electrical indicators] are non-unique."

Monastero talks of an MT survey Magma recently completed in one of their two concessions in Chile, located 350 km south of Santiago and surrounded by old volcanic cones and several hot springs, geysers and fumaroles. "We identified what is almost a classic geothermal feature," he says. "It has a tremendous background resistivity low with a beautiful resistivity high that forms a path to the system, and the fumarole on the surface can't hurt." Magma instituted a slim hole program and were able to get one hole down to a depth of a little more than 650 metres before winter came in and they had to stop. "But the temperatures we experienced at that depth were in excess of 200 degrees," Monastero says. "So we are really excited about it. That's an example of a successful application of MT." But he cautions, "MT's a beautiful technique that you want to use it in combination with a number of other techniques to get a really definitive answer—or at least one in which you have some confidence."

Magma uses Geosoft's gridding features extensively in exploration. Chief Geophysicist Gary Oppliger says the company is able to do prospect evaluations across the western US with it. "Oasis montaj' is optimal for the gridding of our potential field data, i.e., aeromagnetics and gravity. These are typically regional surveys which we are able to integrate with detailed project level surveys." He says one exploration layer consists of these gravity and magnetics maps which are given favoured types of processing treatments within Oasis montaj to reveal the features they're interested in.

"Another critical layer is basic topography and geology," he continues. "We need that reference information and fortunately it's available digitally at high-resolution. The geologic information is typically of lower resolution from scanned versions of paper maps to provide geologic contexts. In the future we hope to have a better integration with attributed geologic maps."

After those layers he says importantly comes property. "Property includes the status of land; whether it has restrictions; whether it's government owned. And in particular if it's potentially available for lease option. It's one of our key focusing tools."

With an extensive exploratory drilling program coming up over the next 24 months, borehole data capability will be important too, adds Magma geologist Mary Ohren. "I am confident that Target is the way to go," she says. "We have paper data on lithology and downhole temperatures and surveys that we have put into Target databases from Excel," she says. "And getting borehole data in the right format is important."

Vice President Jordan Hastings, who is responsible for Magma's IT infrastructure, says the company needs to analyze an already large collection of geoscience data: geologic and topographic maps, remote-sensing imagery, gravity, seismic and EM surveys, LiDar, plus a  variety of downhole drill-logs. "We primarily use a combination of ESRI and Geosoft software: ArcGIS together with Target and Oasis montaj," he says. "Magma also is considering the Geosoft DAP approach to data documentation and management [DAP offers a centralized, platform-neutral technology], which will become all the more appealing when hosted.”

"ESRI makes beautiful maps and they are excellent at building geographic data sets," says Hastings. "We are really pleased with the easy integration of ESRI and Geosoft and are hoping to see more of this using DAP in the future." He likes being able to bring cartographic and cadastral data directly into the Geosoft environment, not having to rework it there, "so we have one set of geodata rather than two. We don't want to end up with divergent data sets because of multiple software tools." As a new company, Magma has the opportunity to build all this right from the beginning, and Hastings leads the charge. "It's our objective to get this complex arrangement of vertical data from boreholes, horizontal data from various fields, and the geographic underpinnings under management now," he says.

Magma president Monastero thinks Magma's timing in entering the geothermal arena couldn't be better. "We are seeing a fundamental change in the industry," he says. Recalling past ups and downs with renewable energy sources, "it's one that will endure this time around." Clearly the investing public agrees: in June this year, at the tender age of 16 months Magma went into an unpredictable capital marketplace and handily sold out an initial public offering of $100 million in stock.