Nikolaos Arvanitidis

6 minute read

Challenging more efficient exploration

Discovery of new resources needs enhanced information

• on surface and subsurface geology,

• new concepts of natural resource potential, particularly in underexplored areas of limited geological knowledge

• projects facilitating the need to span the geosciences and be truly multidisciplinary.

Global trends and findings

Near mine/brownfields exploration

• During 1996-2008 by reviewing 31 base- and precious metal discoveries it was found that over 60% of them were spatially linked to existing or historic mines.

• It was found that, over the period 1950-2013, the average delay between discovery and production for greenfields copper projects was 18.4 years, versus 15.6 years for brownfields projects.

• The allocation of brownfields budgets was rising from 16% of total spend in 2006 to 29% in 2013. These activities generally being a less expensive and less risky way to add resources. This outcome has come at the cost of declining greenfields exploration (down to 40% to 32% over the same period), which may have longer-term consequences for discovery and development rates.

• An analysis among 182 mineral projects showed that more than 60% of the total budget for geology was allocated to brownfields near mine and in- mine exploration activities.

Deep exploration

• Exploration have made the transition to a different way of exploring, due to an obvious and compelling need to largely abandon a predominantly surface to near-surface target approach and embrace deep exploration.

• About 80% of the unrealized ore potential of the Earth’s crust that, is poorly explored in known mining districts and metallogenic provinces, from about 300 m below surface down to 2-km depth (and this does not include the potential of greenfield regions).

• Exploring deeper and under cover may meet rising community and environmental concerns.

Greenfield exploration

• A strong greenfields exploration program is central to the long-term growth of the industry, as this is the only way of delivering the next major new mining camp. It is the best solution is to find new, high-quality deposits.

• Genuine greenfields discovery focused on high-quality targets remains the best long-term option to grow a company.

• Exploration success is not measured simply in terms of the number of deposits found, but rather the number of high-quality mines built.

Land-use planning

• Dynamic nature of socio-economic factors can be expressed as concern about the environment, cost of energy, social license to operate or conflict. In a changing world, these factors are likely to become increasingly significant

• To an increasing extent, extraction of mineral resources must compete with other interests

• Documentation and spatial databases of reserves/deposit areas is of importance for influencing on the future land use.

Exploration: The search for an ore deposit

Generating successful new projects is mainly based on available information reviews and new exploration surveys carried out.

Geology drives ore modelling

• If is often difficult to identify all of the processes involved in the formation of a deposit and in place of a good understanding of why mineral deposits occur where they do, mineral explorers and resource assessor make do with mineral deposit models. The attached figure displays a workable geo-modeling approach concerning the presence of interactive ore-forming hydrothermal systems in northern Greece to produce feasible manto polymetallic and porphyry copper deposits.

• The value of ore deposit models in exploration and resource assessment is therefore limited when the geology of an area is poorly understood and by the simplifications inherent in the construction of ore deposit models

• Integration of geological, geochemical, geophysical, spectral data, adds an essential, holistic, multidisciplinary approach that further enhances the exploration process.

Mineral exploration challenges for Geological Surveys

• Evaluation of future global minerals demand and supply.

• More detailed evaluations of resource potential in underexplored regions and revisiting of historic mining regions with new technology and concepts

• Enhance the accessibility to existing data on both primary and secondary resources to achieve high potential and new mineral deposits (e.g. CRM) taking also into account competing land-uses

• New 3D/4D modeling capabilities integrating geological, geophysical and geochemical data, and development and application of innovative assessment methods will result in improving the understanding of resources and possibly underpinning the discovery of deep seated deposits.

• Ore classification of primary and secondary resources based on geological potential approach and estimation

• Develop models for the research and development of unconventional resources (e.g., small high-grade deposits necessitating reduced investments for their development, and hence reduced impacts on society, land use and the environment).

EU raw materials sustainability

• Sustainable and resilient exploitation of Europe’s mineral resources and work towards a secure supply of the EU with raw materials.

• Integrate innovation and value creation in relation to mineral raw materials in combination with environmentally sound and resource efficient exploitation taking into account the required economic, environmental and social conditions.

• Stimulate economic growth while at the same time promoting fairness for all citizens and a healthy environment.

• Societal, environmental and political values and developments may place increasing pressure on the availability and exploitation of natural resources, including mineral raw materials, but also other geological resources.

Challenging targets towards and beyond 2020

• To build a good understanding of mineral occurrences and evolution of their geological and lithological environment is main key to explaining and predicting the regional distribution and exploitability of subsurface resources as well as the associated natural and anthropogenic physical interactions.

• Improving European regional geological and metallogenic knowledge and enhancing 3D predictive targeting systems to improve exploration efficiency, identify and safeguard areas of high mineral resource prospectivity and areas with development potential taking into account competing land uses and facilitate the identification of mineral resources at depth.

• Providing estimates of resources classification (discovered and undiscovered) for specific commodities as well as developing appropriate methods for reporting reserves and resources of waste rock, mine waste and tailings.

• Identifying the undiscovered resources of specific commodities within Europe, using appropriate methodologies.

• Producing harmonized transnational metallogenic maps, and new mineral potential and mineral prediction maps based on common methodologies

• Improving mineral deposit models for under-explored or poorly explored deposit types in Europe. Develop models for the research and development of unconventional resources (e.g., small high-grade deposits necessitating reduced investments for their development, and hence reduced impacts on society, land use and the environment).

• Bring new methodologies for enhancing exploration success to the market making it more efficient, less costly and less invasive.

• Business and other stakeholders should be better placed to leverage investment in innovative solutions for mineral exploration and development.

• Develop the data and tools to facilitate the re-use and recycling of mineral based waste. Combine with the development of ‘mobile’ units for the treatment of limited amounts of materials in order to make this approach really effective, especially at legacy sites.

• Focus on exploration for commodities challenging environments and new frontiers, such as energy critical elements, low-carbon technologies and products, telecommunications, transport, societal well-being including health.