Geophysical signatures of mineral systems; more than bumps


8 CPD hours“Geophysical signatures of mineral systems; more than bumps” is a workshop being held as part of the ASEG-PESA 24th International Geophysical Conference and Exhibition in Perth, 15-18 February 2015.  The convention organisers have decided to make workshop registration available to attendees who have not registered for the conference itself.

Date: Thursday 19 Feb
Cost: Standard $180, students $80 (Students must provide proof of student status)
Location: Meeting Room 10, Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre
Conveners: Ken Witherly: Condor Consulting  & John Hart:RioTinto Exploration

Workshop Details

It is generally accepted that the shallow, easy to define ore bodies were recognized first and developed. In the past 20 years, the discovery performance across virtually all mineral sectors has fallen, resulting in growing concern that if unchecked, there could be shortfalls in a number of commodities within the next 20 years.

The collective sense is that the geological column hosts more deposits than have been found to date but these are expected to be at greater depths than have typically been explored before. To be able to operate in this environment, new approaches to the identification of deposits is required and the concept of a mineral systems approach, first suggested 20 years ago, has emerged as a powerful means to build strategies and capabilities going forward. In terms of geophysical exploration, the major change that will be required is a shift from a focus almost entirely on direct targeting of deposits with geophysical surveys to a staged process where geophysical approaches are used initially to help define the pathways in the Earth which carried the mineralizing solutions which formed the target deposit.

These pathways would provide a much larger target to explore for and if detected and mapped, should allow explorers to follow the pathway to the location of potential deposits. This task is different from most geophysical studies undertaken, where the focus has been typically on improving the direct targeting capabilities and not the larger scale mapping problem that a mineral systems approach will require. In the current assessment, a review is undertaken of what is seen as the current state-of-play for a number of major deposit styles and how geophysical data is being used at present to explore for these. The assessment overall is encouraging but major challenges remain outside of the technical issues of defining a mineral systems strategy that relate primarily to human resources and the commercial environment.

This forum will examine the current state of understanding of geophysical signatures of mineral systems; current examples, on-going research and areas which require further assessment. A major tenant that is already apparent is that the successful development of undercover exploration strategies will require a degree of integration of geophysical outcomes with other geoscience data not typically achieved historically.

Visit the AIG Events Calendar for additional information.


UNCOVER – Progress in the vision for exploration geosciences and mineral discovery in Australia

The UNCOVER initiative in our national mineral exploration endeavours, formulated under the aegis of the Australian Academy of Sciences aims to build a strategy which will find new Tier 1 mineral deposits under the 80% of Australia where favourable geology lies  below regolith or other barren cover.  This will be facilitated by increasing the national conversation between industry, research providers (academia and CSIRO), government surveys, and policy-development arms of government, in order to enhance the communication, direction and focus of new technologies, models and exploration programs.

The UNCOVER Executive Committee last April welcomed The Honourable Martin Ferguson AM (a past Minister for Resources and Energy in the Rudd-Gillard governments) as Patron.  In this role we believe Mr Ferguson will greatly assist in our liason with policy-makers in government.

The UNCOVER initiative has progressed this year on four fronts.  Firstly, publication of the Summit presentations by the ASEG, at request of the UNCOVER Executive, meets the need for an archiving of the Summit material in a citeable, discoverable and downloadable form, and we have achieved this by use of the Preview format which assures that CSIRO Publishing will host this resource as a permanent archive, accessible through standard databases and web searches.  Two summaries linked at the head of the list of contents are vital reading for all explorationists; the first summarises strategy and emerging geosciences priorities as identified in the Summit, while the second summarises the findings of the post-Summit cover thickness mapping workshop.  The synergies of airborne gravity gradiometry with airborne EM (AEM) for determining regolith thickness, and of both active and passive seismic methods with ground EM data are points well made in this review.

Secondly, an UNCOVER Geoscience Committee has been formed under chairmanship of Steve Beresford, Chief Geologist of First Quantum Minerals Ltd. One of the roles of the Geoscience Committee will be to identify and recommend endorsement of projects, in particular “headline projects” which may become the focus of the UNCOVER initiative.

Thirdly, AMIRA International has launched a Road-Map initiative as part of Project P1162: Unlocking Australia’s Hidden Potential, under the leadership of  Robbie Rowe of  NextGen Geological Pty Ltd.  This initiative will provide an opportunity for industry to contribute to a blueprint for addressing the challenges and gaps in knowledge, technology capability together with an assessment of the research capacity (human resources and infrastructure) required to improve the exploration success rate in areas of post mineral cover.  Further details are available here.  AMIRA advise that this project P1162 has now received the necessary threshold funding and has commenced with an impressive total of 31 companies and government agencies signed up.

Fourthly, Geoscience Australia and the Australian state and Northern Territory geological surveys have embraced the UNCOVER initiative as a major part of their support for the mineral exploration industry.   Richard Blewett, Group Leader Mineral Systems for Geoscience Australia, gives an overview of the effort, currently beginning with studies in the Stavely area under Murray Basin cover of western Victoria, and continuing with studies in the Thomson Orogen of northern NSW, Queensland and Northern Territory.  These projects have the involvement of a number of geoscientists within Geoscience Australia, plus additional input from state surveys and universities.  See more here.

Preview (the news magazine of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists) this month publishes online sixty presentations from the UNCOVER Summit and post-Summit Workshop, held in Adelaide 31 March-2 April.

Michael Asten
Australian Geoscience Council Representative on the UNCOVER Executive

(Michael Asten is a professor of geophysics at Monash University, Melbourne.

CSIRO Mineral Exploration Seminars this November

The CSIRO Mineral Resources Flagship will hold two mining and exploration seminars in Mount Isa, Qld and Perth WA during November.

The first seminar on Monday the 10th November 2014 at the Ibis Styles in Mount Isa will examine the latest research into exploration concepts and tools being developed by the Mineral Resources Flagship in CSIRO. Presentations will focus on research in the Mount Isa Inlier or applications that could be used in Mount Isa. The diverse series of presentations are listed below. Additionally, the final session will be an open panel discussion to better understand exploration challenges in the Mount Isa Inlier and potential solutions through research.

Topics include:

  • Mineral systems approach to exploration
  • Hyperspectral data and the Mount Isa Inlier
  • Regolith processes and the Mount Isa Inlier
  • Geophysical case studies of the Mount Isa InlierGesocience data and seemless access for industry
  • Probabilistic modelling – Mine case study
  • Alternative views on the tectonics of the Mount Isa Inlier
  • pXRF best practice and applications
  • Landscape evolution modelling for mineral exploration
  • Stable isotopes in mineral exploration
  • Advanced characterisation facilities

The Perth seminar will be held on Thursday the 13th November 2014 at the Australian Resources Research Centre in Perth. The seminar provides the latest research into exploration concepts and tools being developed by the Mineral Resources Flagship in CSIRO. Presentations will be targeted at Australian exploration issues, ranging from the application of ultrafine fraction gold for exploration in regolith dominated terrains to magnetic remnance and magma physics of sulfide systems.

Topics include:

  • Stable isotopes and mineral exploration
  • Advancing exploration using spectral data
  • Calcrete and plants and their link to gold mineralisation
  • Landscape evolution and exploration in the Albany-Fraser Orogen
  • Isotopic terrain mapping
  • Indicator heavy minerals for exploration through cover
  • Uranium mineral systems
  • Groundwater isotopes and ratios for exploration in the Northern Yilgarn Craton
  • Advanced characterisation: new insights into exploration and resource samples

Visit the AIG Events Calendar for further information or download the Mount Isa and Perth registration brochures.

AIG members are entitled to discount registration for both seminars.

Mineral exploration key to industry’s future: AMEC

“The  Mineral and Petroleum Exploration, Australia June 2014 quarter  report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a slight increase in mineral exploration expenditure and metres drilled on the back of consistent decreases,” said Simon Bennison, Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO.

“This is not surprising given exploration is a seasonal industry and as such the seasonally adjusted estimate shows a decrease in expenditure and metres drilled.

Australian Exploration Expenditure June 2014

Australian Exploration Expenditure June 2014

Greenfield Exploration Drilling in Australia, June 2014

Greenfield Exploration Drilling in Australia, June 2014

“These levels continue to be historically low. Investment in exploration on new deposits is similar to post GFC levels in the March 2009 quarter which reflects the challenges currently facing the industry.

“Given the long lead time from discovery to a producing mine, these figures are extremely concerning. Investment in greenfields exploration is essential for new discoveries to secure the future of the Australian mining industry.

“The industry contributes 10 percent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and employs around 250,000 people in Australia. The industry is essential to support Australia’s economy and Government revenue streams into the future.

“Australia’s reputation must be restored. In 2013 67% of exploration funds raised on the ASX went to international projects. The number of Initial Public Offerings on the ASX also dropped from 126 in 2007 to just three this year.

“It is essential then that the Federal Government’s proposed Exploration Development Incentive initiative is quickly legislated. This along with the repeal of the mining tax will go a long way to restoring Australia’s international competitiveness and increasing investment to stimulate the sector,” said Mr Bennison.

AMEC Media Release, 1 Sep 2014

Queensland Future Resources Program

The Geological Survey of Queensland has announced five projects selected from the second round of submissions to the Queensland Government’s Government’s Future Resources Program Industry Priorities Initiative that will be implemented by the survey in coming months.  The projects were selected on the basis of having the greatest perceived potential to have significant positive impacts on exploration investment in the state. 

The selected projects are:

  1. VTEM Supermax Proposal- Cloncurry/Osborne Mine region in NW Queensland.  The project is based on a proposal from Minotaur Exploration through AMEC. This project has the potential to revolutionise exploration methods in the highly prospective Cloncurry region.
  2. Towards a web-accessible 3D mineral map of Australia: a proposal submitted by CSIRO through the Queensland Exploration Council (QEC).  This proposal aims to deliver the exploration industry access to region-wide, calibrated spectral datasets to assist in the identification of buried mineral systems.
  3. Mass Mining Queensland: a proposal from the W.H. Bryan Research Centre submitted through QEC. This project proposal will assist the transition from discovery of mineralisation to mine development, and may significantly enhance the economics of mine development in the Cloncurry region.
  4. Economic Potential of a New Cape York Mineral Sands Province.  This proposal was received from Oresome Australia Ply Ltd and Metallica Minerals through AMEC. The proposal aims to conduct mapping and drill-testing of possible, previously unknown mineral sand deposits in central western Cape York.
  5. Identification of Petroleum Source Rocks to Advance the State’s Shale Gas Prospectivity: a proposal from Santos through QEC. This project will involve identifying and sampling possible petroleum source rocks in the little-explored Georgina and Adavale basins, as well as selected formations in the Bowen and Eromanga basins.

A call for Round 3 proposals, the last currently planned under this initiative, is planned for early 2015.