Exploration research takes ‘bottom-up’ approach

Exploration Toolkit

Geoscience Australia has released an electrical conductivity model for northern Australia, enabling a deeper understanding of mineral compositions hundreds of kilometres below the surface.

The model called magnetotellurics (MT) was created as part of the government agency’s Australian Lithospheric Architecture Magnetotelluric Project (AusLAMP).

AusLAMP forms part of the $225 million Exploring for the Future program and could uncover copper, gold or critical mineral deposits for future exploration.

Geoscience Australia chief of the Minerals, Energy and Groundwater Division Andrew Heap said this “bottom-up” approach to exploration presented new opportunities for Australian miners.

“With this data, scientists can look beneath Australia’s cover like never before and visualise the Earth’s structure in areas that are currently poorly understood,” Heap said.

“For example, this new model produced from the newly collected AusLAMP data covers more than one million square kilometres of northern Australia and reveals prominent electrical conductivity features that can be used to narrow the search for large mineral systems in this under-explored region.”

Promising areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland have already been identified using the technology, according to Heap.

Geoscience Australia will continue to collaborate with the state and Northern Territory geological surveys, AuScope and the University of Adelaide, the University of Western Australia and the University of Tasmania across approximately 3000 sites Australia-wide.

Federal Resources and Water Minister Keith Pitt said the technology provided terrific opportunity to mineral explorers as they hunt for the next big Australian discovery.

“Several major mines across Australia are linked to conductivity features like the ones identified in this new AusLAMP model, including the trillion-dollar Olympic Dam mine in South Australia,” Pitt said.

“I encourage industry to start using this model now to plan for future exploration activities across northern Australia.”

exploration

Curtin University in Western Australia has also unveiled a new technology to aid in the exploration of its home state.

In partnership with the Geological Survey of Western Australia, researchers from Curtin University’s Oil and Gas Innovation Centre and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences have begun using machine learning to streamline exploration activities.

The technique, called deep learning, uses a database to understand patterns in geological formations, as explained by lead researcher Vladimir Puzyrev.

“Deep learning methods are completely transforming the landscape of data analysis because they achieve unprecedented performance levels across various tasks, significantly reducing the manual labour and subjectivity present in more conventional methods of exploration,” Puzyrev said.

“The ultimate aim of this research project is to help identify new mineral deposits in Western Australia by analysing big geochemical data using deep learning methods.”

The Geological Survey of Western Australia’s Mineral Exploration database (WAMEX) has been capturing exploration results over a number of years, leading researchers to labour over the findings.

Geological Survey of Western Australia project lead Paul Duuring said having computers analyse the more than 50 million samples would save a lot of resources for mining companies.

“There are time and cost challenges in the manual quality control of such large data, so this project is an important step towards adding value to existing digital geochemical datasets,” Duuring said.

“An improved database opens new possibilities for Western Australia’s mineral exploration sector.”

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