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

December 7, 2016

Geosoft introduces IP and resistivity inversion in VOXI Earth Modelling

Geosoft has added induced polarization and resistivity data inversion to its VOXI Earth Modelling 3D inversion software service. Geoscientists are now able to create detailed 3D models of conductivity and chargeability from IP and resistivity survey data with VOXI. The resulting models can assist in interpreting and targeting regions for mineral and environmental applications...

December 5, 2016

Mexico's Deepwater Round Exceeds Expectations

Some of the world's biggest oil companies showed up Dec. 5 and agreed to invest on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico, proving that deepwater exploration still has a pulse despite challenging market conditions...

November 30, 2016

Magnetic inversion results for Ngamiland available for download

A regional-scale geophysical inversion of magnetic field data in the Ngamiland region of northwestern Botswana is now available for download from the Botswana Geoscience Portal, a partnership initiative of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, industry sponsors and Geosoft...

November 30, 2016

LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from their engineering test runs to full science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30...

November 9, 2016

International Volcano Scientists Unite

For the first time, the United States will host the international Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop, previously held only in Italy. The workshop will take place this month in Vancouver, Washington. It is designed specifically for volcano observatories around the world and their staff to exchange ideas and best practices with each other...

October 4, 2016

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming...

October 3, 2016

Uganda Targets Up to U.S.$100 Million for Mineral Exploration

Uganda is well endowed with mineral resources and, like many naturally-gifted African countries, is becoming keen on ensuring that these resources play a transformative role in its long-term structural transformation dream - the Vision 2040...

September 9, 2016

Small-Scale Fishers Get A Big Boost With First-Of-Its Kind Impact Investment Fund

Conservation organization Rare announces the Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries at Our Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility, one of the largest funders of conservation worldwide, will be investing $6 million into the fund...

September 1, 2016

Scientists take to the skies to track West African pollution

Scientists operating research aircraft over West Africa have detected organic materials in the atmosphere over a number of urban areas, contributing to concerns of the rise in pollution across the region...

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...

There’s gold in this

A joint project of the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Geosoft, supported by Barrick Gold, has created new CET grid analysis software which can help explorers improve their interpretations

How the new algorithms work
their magic

The CET Grid Analysis software provides tools for grid texture analysis, lineament detection, edge detection, and thresholding to coax out trends from geophysics datasets and facilitates the following:

  1. Texture analysis-based image enhancement: by highlighting local intensity variations, this method enhances regions of discontinuity within aeromagnetic/gravity datasets. Regions of magnetic/gravity discontinuity correspond with, and can reveal, lithological boundaries, faults and dykes critical to understanding an area’s geology.
  2. Discontinuity structure detection: takes the texture analysis output and finds the skeletal structure of the regions of the magnetic/gravity discontinuity. The output is a set of a binary skeletal line segments that belong to each of the discontinuity regions, clearly showing the changes of orientations and offsets within the structures. This process emulates the traditional manual drawing of interpretive lines along the discontinuity region.

The Algorithms will be useful in exploring for most kinds of mineral deposits, in particular gold and base metal mineralization.

By Graham Chandler

With 26 operating mines and projects across five continents, Barrick Gold Corporation is a minerals industry leader. But like most resource companies, it won’t hold the lead for long if it doesn’t constantly explore for new reserves to replace production.

Finding those new deposits is an ongoing challenge. Precious few new gold discoveries have been reported over the last decade.

Nowhere is this truer than in Africa, where Barrick operates four gold mines. There, the company reports proven and probable gold reserves of 18.4 million ounces. With annual production figures like the 545,000 ounces in 2008, it’s clear why it needs to stay ahead of the game to preserve production levels.

Most of Barrick’s African gold mines sit within a 100-kilometre radius around Lake Victoria in Tanzania, East Africa. It’s a prolific gold region where Barrick continues to search its landholdings for new reserves.

And that’s where the new CET grid analysis software has worked so well and become an indispensable tool for Barrick. “The most relevant application to date has been on airborne gravity data in the Lake Victoria Goldfields,” says Matthew Hope, Barrick’s Project Geophysicist for Africa/Eurasia, “to assist in mapping dislocations and gradient changes commonly associated with greenstone gold deposits.”

It is the identification and mapping of these features that makes the new CET grid analysis tool so useful to explorers. The modules are essentially automatic interpretation tools that provide a first pass lineament detection on gridded/image data.

They provide a huge time savings benefit. “Exploration teams today have a lot of data to sift through and don’t have a long time to do it,” says Louis Racic, Geosoft’s Product Management Director. “At one time people would spend weeks or months completing interpretations—we don’t have that luxury anymore.”

The clever and sophisticated algorithms behind these tools were created by the Geophysics and Image Analysis Group of The University of Western Australia (UWA)’s Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET), part of the University’s School of Earth and Environment. The group is supported through a partnership between UWA, Curtin University of Technology and the mineral exploration industry. Since 2006, the team has been focusing on developing new techniques to enhance and automatically detect features of interest from geoscientific datasets.

While the UWA team are clearly the mathematical theorists behind the initiative, creation of the new modules was a joint effort with partners Barrick and Geosoft. It was a three-way win situation. “We saw an opportunity to support an educational initiative and it was a good fit with our mission of empowering explorers,” says Racic. “The University of Western Australia is well regarded in the exploration community, especially in Australia. And we can benefit from them as they can benefit from us.”

The other partner, Barrick Gold, agrees—they were in fact instrumental in getting the project underway. “The significance of the grid analysis tools was first recognized through our association with the External Advisory Group for CET,” says Barry Bourne, Chief Geophysicist-Global Exploration, at Barrick Gold. The company provided already-analyzed datasets for testing of the algorithms. “Initial processing of potential field data with the CET grid analysis tools showed a good correlation with known structure and geology,” he says. With those successes, Barrick saw the need to have it commercialized and recommended that CET discuss possible solutions with Geosoft.

Bourne says it wasn’t just one single interpretative situation that identified the need for the new grid analysis tool. “It was more a case of having access to new layers of information to assist with the interpretation of potential field data,” he says. “We offered critical feedback on the outputs, [which] varied from comments on the association of outputs with known geology/structure to the provision of GIS-compatible output for integration with other exploration data.”

In the CET group at UWA, Associate Professor Eun-Jung Holden teamed up with Professor Mike Dentith and Dr Peter Kovesi to develop the methodology used for the software. In 2009 when the project hit its stride, Holden coordinated and led the team, assisted by research associate Shih Ching Fu, to develop the software.

Holden explains the outcome and the three basics of what the mathematical processes do. “The algorithms provide methods to enhance local discontinuities within data by analyzing local textures; to locate laterally continuous regions of discontinuity by finding texturally complex line features or finding data edges; and to vectorize the axes of resulting discontinuity regions,” she says. These are all useful identifiers for explorers looking for features.

She says the base algorithms are well-established methods in the computer vision community, some of which had been developed by team member Kovesi. “These algorithms are combined and adapted for geophysical processing in CET grid analysis,” she says.

The software provides generic tools that are broadly applicable. Barrick’s Bourne reckons the new software will have some use in most exploration situations with potential field or other image analysis requirements. “It is not a standalone tool but a supplement to traditional image outputs,” he says. And it’s fast, too. “The efficiency of the CET grid analysis tools is one of its major strengths. From a user perspective the code is relatively easy to understand and quick to run. Several iterations can be achieved in short periods of time on most potential field datasets.”

UWA’s Holden says the new processes have only become possible more recently. “A main challenge in developing geophysical image processing tools is in dealing with the size and scale of the data while preserving a reasonable execution time,” she says. “Often geophysical datasets are larger than datasets used in other fields, and clients do not have access to high powered hardware.”

Holden is pleased with the coordinated team approach with industry in developing the software and figures it’s a major factor in its success—these projects can’t just be academic exercises. “Applied science researchers aim to identify real world problems, devise scientific solutions and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their approaches,” she says. “Through CET’s industry networks and sponsors, our team has had access to exploration industry companies, specifically Barrick Gold, for this project.” Several other large exploration companies have shared their research outcomes with UWA and tested the effectiveness and marketability of CET’s algorithms within the past year as well. They were keen to embrace the technology and encourage its market availability.

Barrick geophysicists expect to use it on both magnetic and gravity data; and possibly radar data in specialized applications. They see the tool as an ‘extra filter’ technique—to be included with the range of filters they use to generate potential field images at a project’s initial workup stage. During interpretation its output has the most impact on mapping structure, so will be used heavily in structural geology and for identifying zones of structural complexity for targeting. Barrick’s Matthew Hope sees the value of its conversion of a grid product into a vectorized product ready for integration into GIS packages.

Clearly the specific algorithms contained in this new tool all provide significant gains for the interpretation process. But the research doesn’t stop there. “Image processing research is a rapidly moving field, and CET intends to transfer and extend these advances into the field of geophysical image processing,” says UWA’s Holden.