Ultrasound imaging a seismic shift for explorers

Seismic imaging technology commonly used in the oil and gas industry is now available for minerals explorers and mine planners through a new company.

Minerals explorers and mine planners now have access to a seismic imaging technology commonly used in the oil and gas technology, thanks to researchers from Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines (WASM).

The technology, which primarily uses ultrasonic waves to map images of ore bodies, is being commercialised through a spin-off company HiSeis.

The system has been developed at WASM’s Department of Exploration Geophysics by a team led by Dr Anton Kepic and Dr Milovan Urosevic.

Kepic and Urosevic are also the founding shareholders in HiSeis.

Kepic told MINING DAILY the technology uses sound waves to probe the earth and produce images.

“It uses a combination of specialised, off-the-shelf and modified hardware,” he said.

“The oil and gas industry has come to rely on this technology over the years, but it has been previously difficult to apply to the hard rock environments.

“The structure of the earth in minerals deposits can vary and be very complicated.

“This knowledge is extremely valuable in exploration and mine planning.”

According to Kepic, the researchers were able to overcome these challenges through a combination of expertise and experience.

“Like any good tool, the quality is important, but not as vital as the quality of the operator,” he said.

“We have individuals in our team that are very skilled in creating the images and others that are familiar with the geological issues inherent in the mining industry.

“The data in it is raw form is not easily understood, so you have to have someone who can walk the explorer through the data.”

According to Kepic, when the technology is used in the oil and gas industry, different groups handle the different stages of the process, from data acquisition to interpreting the image.

“These groups often pass the buck when things go wrong,” he said.

“We take full responsibility for whole process, which is quite important when the technology is not that well known.”

Kepic said the company would consider providing training to the exploration companies if there was large enough demand.

The imaging service has already been successfully supplied over a number of years through Curtin, generating revenue of close to $1 million per annum.

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