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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

November 10, 2015

AGU's First Ask Me Anything: Water Science and Management

AGU's first ever Reddit Ask Me Anything, features Dr. Alberto Montanari, editor in chief of Water Resources Research on 12 November, from 12:00-2:00 P.M. EST, via Reddit's r/science portal ...

November 5, 2015

Massive graphite discovery could be on the cards for NQ

Graphite is a mineral of immense potential and value - its purer forms sought out for use in mobile phone technologies and the batteries that power...

November 1, 2015

Australia's junior sector turns to crowdfunding

Australian junior miners have decided to battle the capital drought afflicting the sector by turning to the Internet to raise funds...

October 28, 2015

Saudi Arabia's mining sector to triple by 2030

Mining contribution to GDP to reach SR260 billion by 2030 and create more than 100,000 jobs for citizens ...

October 26, 2015

Grant enables pioneering research of vast river systems in Great Plains and Asia

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of rivers to sustaining life for animals and people...

October 16, 2015

INFOGRAPHIC: "Gold off to races?"

This week, gold made a significant technical breakthrough ...

October 15, 2015

BHP raising $6.5bn fresh sign of mining turnaround

The mining industry's big players are themselves slowly beginning to change tack...

October 7, 2015

Could rock formations along Alabama highways offer clues to climate change?

Making predictions about climate variability often means looking to the past to find trends...

October 2, 2015

Petrobras' pre-salt drilling confirms high quality oil potential in Carcará

The drilling of the third well in the Carcará area (Block BM-S-8) in the Santos Basin's ultra-deep waters...

October 1, 2015

Eni enters Mexico with the development of three oil fields offshore

Eni won with a 100% share a production sharing contract to appraise, develop and exploit the oil fields...

September 23, 2015

Frank Arnott Award honors exploration visionary

A new award named in honor of Frank Arnott, a visionary geophysicist from the United Kingdom, has been introduced to recognize innovation in visualizing and integrating exploration data.

September 21, 2015

300m-year-old volcanoes discovered near Mullingar

Geographically, Ireland is often likened to a saucer: upturned at its mountainous edges and flat...

September 17, 2015

True giants of mining: World's top 10 iron ore mines

The price of iron ore on Thursday turned positive amid new signs that China...

September 15, 2015

GIS and History: Using the Past to Inform the Present

Using the power of Geographic Information Systems to track trends in everything from...

June 26, 2015

Where Big Data Jobs Are In 2015 - Midyear Update

Professional, scientific and technical services, information (IT), and manufacturing are the three industries doing the most Big Data-related hiring as of June, 2015...

June 25, 2015

Coiled Tubing Drill Rig Modified for H Coil

Trials of a new Coiled Tubing Drill Rig are underway in Australia. These rigs use a continuous, flexible tube, rather than drill rods, for faster, safer drilling at just 50c per meter...

June 17, 2015

First gas production from L6-B in the Dutch North Sea

Wintershall is expanding its natural gas production in the Netherlands: the unmanned mini-platform L6-B has started to produce natural gas off the Dutch North Sea coast. The first so called "Minimum Facility”...

June 16, 2015

Worldwide water quality app hits the web

Former Copernicus Masters competition winner EOMAP has launched the first harmonised, high-resolution inland water quality monitoring service based on satellite data...

June 15, 2015

Results from hole AR-15-44b add substantial size to NexGen's rapidly developing Arrow zone

NexGen reported on assay results for angled hole AR-15-44b from the successful winter 2015 program at the Arrow zone on its 100% owned Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

Where there is one VMS, there is usually another

by Virginia Heffernan on June 24, 2013 Applied

Panoramic view of the El Roble project site in Columbia. Atico Mining’s exploration program for El Roble is focused on discovering several million tonnes of high grade copper – gold ore.

In the high-stakes game of mineral exploration, companies that can test their model at an operating mine before venturing into the surrounding district are at a distinct advantage. It’s an approach that is paying off for Vancouver-based Atico Mining as the junior searches for volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits near the El Roble copper-gold mine in Colombia.

“Having access to the mine workings helps us understand the geological and structural controls on mineralization,” says Atico CEO Fernando Ganoza, “and that in turn is helping us find additional resources.”

Atico uses the data collected from ongoing brownfields exploration combined with historical data to create 3D models using Geosoft’s Target and Geochemistry for ArcGIS. The models help guide exploration below the current workings and within the prospective host horizon that extends along strike from the mine.

“We input all of the geophysical and geochemical data into ArcGIS and then, based on the understanding of the geology, set parameters in the software,” explains Senior Exploration Manager Joseph Salas. “That’s how we generate targets.”

In early 2011, Atico signed a deal to earn a 90% interest in El Roble in return for paying its Colombian owners US$2.25 million in cash over two years plus a lump-sum payment of US$14 million due in January 2014.  Over a production history of roughly 22 years, the underground mine has turned out 1.5 million tonnes grading an average of 2.5% copper and 2.5 grams gold per tonne.

Field geology discussion.

“Having access to the mine workings helps us understand the geological and structural controls on mineralization and that in turn is helping us find additional resources.”
- Fernando Ganoza

Although most of the historical resource, consisting of several VMS lenses, has been mined, Atico has found more ore at depth. These new targets were established by mapping the geology both at surface (1:5,000 and 1:10,000 scale) and underground (1:250 scale), following structural controls and mineral zoning patterns typical of VMS deposits.

Geophysics and Geochemistry Zero in on Targets
On of the most significant conclusions from the surface mapping program is that the mineralized contact between basaltic volcanic rocks and black and grey cherts extends for 10 km across the El Roble concessions. Follow-up prospecting has confirmed that resistivity lows and chargeability highs can be used as indicators of the favourable chert horizon.

However, additional geophysical tools were needed to distinguish between conductive graphite in the chert and VMS mineralization. So Atico launched a ground magnetic orientation survey around the mine and reprocessed about 40 line-km of ground magnetic data collected in the mid-1980s by Nittetsu Mining, a former joint-venture partner on the property. The reprocessed magnetic map shows a weak magnetic anomaly over the El Roble mine and four stronger magnetic anomalies to the north.

In the air, Atico ran a 500-km versatile time-domain electromagnetic survey to cover the trend with lines every 100 m and a spacing of 50 m between stations. (Time-domain EM surveys are often effective in pinpointing VMS mineralization above a depth of 200 m.) A follow-up ground gravity survey further refined drill targets by identifying several anomalies that could represent pockets of VMS mineralization.

[Click to enlarge]

El Roble – Geology Section 20 South.

Although drilling along the trend has yielded little of interest so far, underground drilling is showing that a gold-silver halo in the black chert is a significant geochemical indicator that can be used for both brownfield and greenfield exploration. Results from the northern end of the operating mine include 119 m of 6.9% copper and 6.3 grams gold per tonne.

The host rocks at El Roble are part of the Cretaceous Cañasgordas Group, which can be traced for more than 800 km along the western cordillera of Colombia. Locally, mafic volcanic rocks include pillow basalts, tuffs, hyaloclastites, and agglomerates, while pelagic sedimentary rocks consist of chert, siltstone, and minor limestone.

The VMS mineralization is dominantly pyrite and chalcopyrite, mostly fine-gained and showing little internal structure or banding. Underground drilling between the 2,000- and 1,980-metre levels has identified stockwork mineralization consisting of chalcopyrite with subordinate pyrite in massive veins and patches in a gangue of stockwork quartz and chlorite veins.

Since VMS deposits tend to occur in clusters and the mined-out zones at El Roble represent only about half of what an average VMS cluster would yield, there’s a good chance Atico will find more ore along the 10-km trend as it uses information from the mine to seek out economic mineralization.


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