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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 ...

Golden West Innovates in UXO Survey and Clearance

by Dan Zlotnikov on November 12, 2015 applied

Chief of Detection Dr. Marcel Durocher and Detection Operations Officer Mr. Heang Sambo have been working with Golden West on detection and survey tasks for over 10 years.

[Click to enlarge]

East DRED lanes at the Golden West test center in Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia; green dots are where the Free From Detonator (FFD) landmines and UXO are buried and the yellow dots are scrap metal signatures.

[Click to enlarge]

A target map produced in Oasis montaj shows the depths of the suspected UXO at the Vung Ha project site.

The muddy water of the Tonle Sap River kilometers south of Kampong Chhnang port makes for some very difficult diving conditions.

War has always come with a heavy cost, all too often borne not just by those who lived through the conflict but by people who were not even born until long after its end. As the explosive remnants linger for decades, so do their debilitating effects.

Over the decades, groups large and small have focused their efforts on cleaning up unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Most tackle the problem in the most direct way: Surveying for UXO, digging them out of the ground, and safely destroying them. But there is another side to the work: Coming up with new, more effective ways of addressing the problem. For the past 17 years, this has been the stated goal of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, a small group of highly trained specialists focused on UXO-related research and development.

Supporting role

The foundation’s team does engage in clearance work if a fellow organization comes across an unusual challenge or requires specialized assistance, however, Roger Hess, Director of Field Operations at Golden West, emphasizes that their primary role is enabling other groups’ clearance operations.

“You have very large organizations like Norwegian People's Aid, Mines Advisory Group, Halo Trust, etc., all doing fantastic things in clearance, and they employ thousands and thousands of people,” he says.

Rather than competing with these groups for limited donor and government funding, Golden West created a small, specialized group that helps everybody, and is focused on innovating to find field supportable solutions that work in developing, post-war countries.

Verifiable results

The first step in UXO clearance is finding the buried remnants, and the process is far from straightforward: Terrain conditions affect detector sensitivity and it takes a lot of practice to filter out as many inert objects as possible, while still ensuring no UXO are left behind.

Golden West’s Detection Technology Manager Marcel Durocher points out that the configuration of detectors isn’t always correct for the particular environment – but all too often device manufacturers simplify device operation by hiding the underlying assumptions from the user.

“The user just punches in the numbers and a pretty picture comes up. There's no understanding of what was involved in the processing. Sometimes it works out fine, but in other cases the assumptions are not valid for that particular environment and the results are not good.”

Durocher, who introduced Geosoft’s Oasis montaj and UXO software to Golden West when he joined the organization in 2006, says the latter offers much greater flexibility and allows users to calibrate the detectors to the circumstances.

“Oasis montaj provides more options on how to process the data and access to more predefined filters. You can also input user-defined filters if you choose, which isn’t possible in other software packages. It’s more mature than anything else on the market,” he says.

Ensuring survey results are consistent and verifiable is essential. “You're never remembered for what you've found; you'll always be remembered for what you'd missed,” Durocher says.

The Golden West approach to surveys relies not only on operator expertise but also on a wealth of data produced by its Detection Research, Evaluation, and Development (DRED) facility – the only one of its kind in South-East Asia. At DRED, six lanes of different soil serve as a testing ground for detectors: Everything from clean sand to metal-rich laterite, and concealing devices ranging from antipersonnel mines 10 cm deep to 750 lb. bombs 400 cm deep.

“All landmines and most UXO still contain the original high explosive main charge, however the primary explosive has been removed from the detonator in the fuse assembly. There are no surrogates or simulated items; if something was missed by the detector then an actual landmine or UXO was missed,” says Hess, explaining that some items have come from stockpiles while others were recovered from actual clearance operations and made safe by the Golden West team.

“The only difference between the DRED site and an actual clearance task is that the items will not explode in the DRED lanes; we refer to it as a ‘Zero Excuse’ approach,” he concludes.

Durocher and his team have used the lanes to painstakingly test various detector configurations. One of the tools they use is a purpose-built, 4m-high PVC tower and a huge array of different targets.

“They will raise or lower the array with a target underneath it, log where it starts to pick it up, where it maxes out, then raise it back up and move it about 10cm and start the whole process again,” says Hess.

Mapping the effectiveness of various sensor configurations involves hundreds of measurements. The result is a database that can be processed in Oasis montaj to produce 3D models of UXO responses for a wide range of munitions.

Once in the field, Golden West operators bury inert munitions of the type most likely to be found at the site. Each day, the operators must show that their equipment can consistently detect these reference targets.

Tests using the UPEX 740 detector – a very widely used device – has yielded another accomplishment: two configurations (a 2.4m octagonal and a 2x2m “Open Loop”) outperformed the manufacturer-recommended configurations. Golden West took the results to Ebinger, the device’s manufacturer, who then incorporated them into the product. Golden West also shared the results with other NGOs in the region, allowing them to boost sensitivity by up to 25% with a $10 investment in some PVC pipe.

Professional data-logging has been used in commercial survey tasks for over two decades in Europe and North America, however it’s only recently been accepted into the Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) scope.

Marcel and I have proven many times that a few days of work by a small detection team that knows how to correctly use data-logging methods will keep a 12-man clearance team busy for a month, easily,” says Hess.

Most of that time, however, will be spent digging up inert pieces of metal – Hess says that with modern technology, he still expects to see a 95% false positive rate. He offers the example of Vung Ha, a 27-hectare site in Vietnam. After the initial survey located over 26,000 potential targets, Durocher re-configured the detector loop; the second pass identified just 4,200 likely targets. Of those, just 507 were found to be actual UXO, fewer than 2% of the initial count. This result highlights another advantage to data-logging: The precise GPS-based identification of target positions meant only 10% of the total area had to be manually cleared, as compared to using mag-and-flag methods.

Durocher notes that the Geosoft software greatly simplified the re-configuring process for the project.

“When you change the size of the loop, you have to change your target thresholds, and you can do that very easily in Geosoft. You can process the data, look at it, and if you're not happy, change the thresholds again, go back and process it, and you can do that in just a few minutes,” he explains.

Challenging conditions

When tips from local residents set Golden West on the trail of ammunition barges that were reportedly sunk in the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers, finding the wrecks was just part of the challenge. Hess describes the recovery as “brown water” work with good reason: The water is so murky that visibility drops to zero – “we train people by painting over their masks,” says Hess – leaving divers completely dependent on their sense of touch. To make matters worse, the current keeps everything moving and the crews are constantly at risk from weeds, logs, or loose fishing nets – none of which they can see coming.

The underwater environment makes accurate survey data all the more vital: Qualified divers are in short supply and their time is best occupied with recovering actual UXO, rather than inert chunks of scrap.

Hess also points out that brown water surveys have a limited shelf life. “The next flood, high tide or storm may bring obstructions that were not there before; your window of opportunity to work is limited.”

Yet the challenges of the brown water environment can yield spectacular results. According to Durocher, the very first search Golden West conducted on the Mekong located a sunken ammunition barge, from which divers recovered over 11 tonnes of ammunition.

Under the sea

Buoyed by the success of the brown water survey work – which the foundation developed with no external funding – Golden West has now taken on an even greater challenge: Surveying the coastal waters of the Solomon Islands, where villagers have been living under UXO threat since the end of World War II.

The age of the munitions is in itself a cause for concern, explains Durocher. As salt water degrades their integrity, explosives – some of which are highly toxic – seep into the sea and poison the marine life and coral reefs.

The project will focus specifically on shallow waters, says Durocher, because people in the region have also been known to use found UXO for fishing – what Durocher and Hess call “fish bombers.” At best, this method indiscriminately kills all sea life in a large area. At worst, Hess says, people mishandle unstable devices and “families get wiped out.”

But marine surveys offer a whole new set of challenges, starting with the conductivity of salt water.

“In fresh water, we can use magnetics, electromagnetics, and sonar. But because salt water is conductive, electromagnetics are of limited usefulness,” Durocher explains.

Ebinger, makers of the UPEX 740, have come up with an idea that may render pulse induction devices usable in salt water; testing the new device in the field is one of Golden West’s goals for the project, says Hess, adding that a wide range of sensors and software packages are to be put through their paces. So little clearance work has focused on coastal seawater areas that we simply don’t know what will work and the pitfalls may be.

“We can make our best guesses based on performance in other situations, but will it actually work, will we be able to accurately get the signals, log the signals, properly record where they were so we can find them again, that’s the crucial question.”

Golden West will be using Geosoft Oasis montaj, and its UXO Marine software, as the baseline against which they will judge the results.

The Solomon Islands project is still in its early stages, but it comes at a time of growing attention to similarly affected shallow coastal waters. As clearance activity in these challenging conditions increases, so will the importance of having the real-world performance data being gathered by Golden West.

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