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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

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 ...

Managing uncertainty: derisking oil exploration in complex environments

by DAN ZLOTNIKOV on April 2, 2014 expertise

Energy exploration is moving into regions that have seen little exploration due to security and logistical concerns. Challenges include working in extreme climates and managing political, operational and security risks.

Suppose you're an energy company in search of new discoveries: Where do you look if you want to make the best use of your limited cash reserves?

The question has as many answers as there are energy companies. Some look near areas known for previous discoveries; others turn to regions where they have the strongest expertise; some may look in areas with existing high-quality survey data; while still others focus on less-rich reserves made economical by good infrastructure links.

Yet regardless of the preferred course of action, one thing virtually all explorers must face is diminishing returns on investment. It’s the harsh reality that forces them into more and more inaccessible and challenging territory.

“A lot of the low-hanging fruit is now gone,” says Dr. Mark Davies, who until 2009 was chief scientist at airborne gravity gradiometry provider ARKeX Inc. “We've been driven into areas where exploration is difficult, often because of extreme weather, be it cold or hot. Imaging is difficult in such conditions.”

In 2011, Davies founded the specialist geosciences company Bridgeporth Ltd. , which focuses on regions that have seen little exploration due to security and logistical concerns. The company also works in extreme climates such as Africa and Northern Canada.

“Our niche is gravity, magnetics and remote sensing. We’ve done work in minus-forty conditions and in plus thirty-five,” says Davies. “Electronics aren't built to sustain temperatures like that, so we’ve had to modify equipment, as well as the way we acquire data, to take account of those extreme conditions.”

Bridgeporth currently operates ground and marine teams, in addition to three aircraft: a Cessna Grand Caravan C208B, a Pilatus Porter PC-6 and a twin engine Basler.

Bridgeporth’s technical director, Dr. Nick Harrop adds that complex projects requiring technological, instrumentation and geophysical problem-solving are par for the course for many explorers.

The bigger challenges, says Harrop, are security and logistics, and this is where Bridgeporth’s unique experience comes to play. “Other companies are perhaps less willing to specialize in this area, whereas Bridgeporth has a lot of in-house expertise for managing political, operational and security risks in complex environments.”

Condensing Timelines

Long delays are inherent in exploration work, and these delays can carry greater risk when exploring in challenging regions.

“Prior to bidding on acreage, you're probably doing twelve months of work as part of a new venture.” explains Davies “Then, once you bid on a project and are successful, you have to do a follow-up study, including gravity, magnetics and seismic.”

In total, it may be three to five years before a block of claims begins generating revenue — a time frame that comes with a separate set of concerns if the project is in an area that’s geopolitically uncertain. The question, says Davies, then becomes: Is the region going to be politically stable long enough for the client to start producing? In short, will there be payback?

The goal is to condense what are normally three years of work into 12 months, an achievement made possible by integrating security and logistics as part of the project. Having security consultants on staff means fast results, says Davies, noting that “managing security and logistics concerns is half the headache when working in these areas.” Bridgeporth’s extensive network of security personnel means the company is able to stay abreast of any potential problems.

[Click to enlarge]

Processing and interpreting acquired data in real time has helped Bridgeporth to shorten project timelines.  Shown above Terrain and Bouguer correction functions in Geosoft Oasis montaj, along with SRTM topography data, are used to correct onshore free air gravity for terrain influences and chosen Bouguer density.

Another element that can shorten timelines is rapid data processing. Coarse-resolution gravity and magnetic data is available globally, allowing energy explorers to quickly and cost-effectively identify areas of interest. Once a target region has been selected, explorers can use higher-resolution airborne surveys to get more information.

Davies explains: “Everything we do is focused on acquiring data rapidly, then processing and interpreting it in real time and making decisions on-the-fly for the client. We acquire the data within a large footprint, and we process and interpret the data in real time. As we in-fill, we get a better and better picture and can continually update the client.”

Obtaining data while surveys are ongoing can help clients plan seismic programs prior to the completion of remote sensing. This is important because in most cases, clients cannot afford to shoot seismic across an entire survey area. To illustrate this point, Davies cites a recent project in East Africa: “In an area that comprised about 60,000 square kilometres, the client had a little more than 2,500 line kilometres of seismic to shoot.” Working closely with the seismic contractors, Bridgeporth was able to further expedite the process, saving time and money.

Building Relationships

Building relationships on the ground is another critical requirement when working in politically sensitive environments. 

Mineral surveys tend to be “postage-stamp sized” in comparison with hydrocarbon surveys, says Davies. No matter how fast the work is performed, a survey team working on a hydrocarbon project will likely remain in the area for months at a time.

“The security and logistics experts will always tell you not to be repetitive or predictable. However, when it comes to a minerals project, we’re generally visible from the same point on the ground throughout the entire survey, so if there's one thing we are, it’s repetitive and predictable. We have to be. As a result, we come up with more creative solutions to mitigate against that easily tracked repetitive behavior”

Hydrocarbon surveys cover a larger area, which allows the survey aircraft to vary its routine somewhat. But there is a trade-off: the large area might overlap the territory of not just one but six or seven local indigenous tribes.

In both scenarios, it’s essential to talk with local residents.

We pride ourselves on our rapport and liaison wok with local communities,” says Davies. “It's all about getting the boots on the ground, talking to the communities, and getting them to understand that we’ll be bringing revenue into the area in the long term.”

Getting the proper rapport with the local communities makes the job easier not only for Bridgeporth, but for any seismic and mining or oil companies that follow the survey teams — a foundation of goodwill the latecomers benefit from.

[Click to enlarge]

Technology integration and extensibility are key for working on multidisciplinary interpretation projects. Shown above a Geosoft 3D View of grid data allows gravity anomalies and rates of change to be visually understood.

Having the Right Tools

When it comes to acquisition technology, Bridgeporth strives to use the best instruments available for a given project, says Davies. “If we think a gradiometry system will work, we'll use that; if we think a high-resolution gravity system is best, we'll use that.” The key, he stresses, is integration. “You can acquire the best data in the world, and lots of it, but unless you integrate everything, no one piece of technology will give you a complete picture.”

A tool that has contributed to getting the complete picture, for Bridgeporth, is Geosoft’s Oasis montaj platform. The company uses Oasis montaj and GM-SYS 3D for gravity and magnetic data processing and interpretation. Bridgeporth field crews perform quality control on the collected data before passing it on to the processing team. After the data has been cleaned and processed, it can be integrated with third-party data for the area such as 2D or 3D seismic, geological information and well information. All of these datasets are combined with the new survey data to produce as complete a picture as possible. “It truly becomes a multidisciplinary interpretation project,” says Davies.

One of the reasons Bridgeporth chose Geosoft is the ability to easily integrate proprietary algorithms and workflows developed by their Research and Development team. Davies points to Geosoft’s extensibility as a crucial benefit. “We favour a number of processing routines and a lot of the functionality of Geosoft's processing is excellent, so why re-invent the wheel? We also write our own Geosoft Executables and then fold that into the software. That gives us the flexibility we need to tailor workflows.”

Flexibility and integration, in their skill sets as well as their technology,  mean Bridgeporth can handle projects under almost any conditions. Says Harrop: “My tick boxes start with the security experts saying they can provide us with a secure camp area, and from there we have the capability to build anything. If there's no landing strip, we can build one; if there are no accommodations, we can bring our own; if there's no power, we can bring that too. We can handle all those things.”

The company currently operates ground and marine teams, in addition to three aircraft: a Cessna Grand Caravan C208B, a Pilatus Porter PC-6 and a twin engine Basler. It expects to add a fourth plane and a helicopter to the fleet, in addition to having access to a range of aerial platforms via a portfolio sister company.

“The Basler in particular is a powerful tool in any arsenal.  With a robust airframe, a range of special mission capabilities, low operation costs, and excellent long range capacity, it is the ideal aircraft for the kind of surveys required by the hydrocarbon and mineral industries. With marine, land, and airborne capabilities, there is no terrain or environment that is inaccessible for Bridgeporth,” says Davies.

Looking forward, Harrop predicts more and more exploration work will be done in politically sensitive areas. “There are many such regions and countries tend to experience geopolitically sensitivity in cycles,” he says. “Some countries you wouldn't have gone to before, you would perhaps consider visiting now, and vice-versa.”

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