The people, science and technology behind discovery

Quantec's Titan Technology Advantage

Virginia Heffernan

Hundreds of junior mining companies are taking advantage of the bull market for mining stocks to raise money and join the hunt for precious and base metals, uranium, and more recently molybdenum. The mineral exploration industry has not been this healthy for decades.

But for investors trying to play the market, the choice of potential investments can be overwhelming. To get their attention, juniors need to differentiate themselves from the crowd and be able to tell a convincing story, quickly and effectively.

One way to stand out is to use innovative technology that can pinpoint subsurface mineralization and display the results in a way the layman can grasp. For example, Quantec Geoscience Ltd. offers a deep imaging technology called Titan 24 that helps mining companies determine whether a property is worth drilling and provides a 3-D model of the subsurface environment they can show to shareholders or potential investors.

Like any new technology, Titan has grown and developed over time. The end result is a solution that not only helps Quantec's clients but boosts productivity within Quantec itself by using software that is standard across the company and includes a customized menu that improves workflow.

Since introducing Titan in 2000, Quantec has completed more than 125 Titan surveys around the world, including several in the Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan, where explorers are finding they need to probe deeper and deeper to find uranium deposits.

The key to this success was a marriage between Geosoft's data mapping software, Oasis montaj, and the powerful Titan technology.

Moving to a standard software platform was not an easy decision. Although Quantec was among the beta testers for Oasis montaj and liked its potential, the 3-D capabilities of the early version were considered rudimentary. Quantec's geophysicists were accustomed to working in a DOS- based platform using Geosoft's older Sushi software for processing data and looked to GoCad to provide the 3-D platform for visualizing data in the future. They were writing their own code to differentiate their surveys from competitors, and had developed custom menus that met all their needs.

Making a change just didn't seem worth it.

But then two things happened: First, Quantec found that fewer and fewer of its new hires were familiar with DOS-based programs, while a greater number were comfortable using Geosoft's Oasis montaj. Moreover, clients were demanding maps in Geosoft, which was quickly becoming the industry standard. By 2001, Quantec was creating maps in DOS but plotting them in Oasis montaj.

"Our clients said to us, listen, we really like GoCad, but as geologists we want to see the maps, we want them plotted to scale, and we have to be able to submit them to the government for assessment, so you must provide them to us as Geosoft plots," says Jean Legault, a senior geophysicist for Quantec.

Still, adapting to the new software wasn't easy. Quantec geophysicists were reluctant to abandon their custom menus and their control over how they plotted and interpreted data. Titan was showing promise as a significant revenue generator for the company but required a specialized menu system that third parties couldn't provide.

The breakthrough came when Geosoft designed a custom workflow solution for the Titan application. The powerful combination of a Titan-specific menu with Geosoft's ability to import, view, process, and share data sets and images in one integrated environment allowed Quantec to streamline its own workflows. Says Legault: "We were able to produce a consistent product across the company using a menu system that makes it relatively easy, and clients can download our maps from an FTP site at the scale they wish or superimpose them in MapInfo or ArcGIS."

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Geosoft was improving the 3-D modelling capabilities of its software, a feature that was becoming vitally important to both Quantec and its Titan clients.

Titan is a deep imaging system that can measure resistivity (DC), chargeability (IP) and magnetotelluric resistivity (MP) at once and explore up to depths of 750 m with IP and beyond 1.5 km with MT. Unlike traditional methods, Titan can highlight subtle features even through thick overburden.

The technology has become popular among junior companies looking for more efficient exploration techniques and among senior companies looking for deeper deposits around their mine sites that might have been missed by traditional geophysical surveys.

Titan now provides a major part of Quantec's revenue, with the rest coming from more traditional ground surveys such as electromagnetics, magnetics, IP and gravity.

One of the key advantages of the Titan system is that it can take years of historical information and integrate it with new data to provide a 3-D model that can pinpoint drill targets or extend existing reserves and resources. This feature makes it easier for geoscientists to interpret data and for juniors to communicate their results to shareholders.

But it takes powerful data-processing and mapping software to handle this amount and variety of data and still provide consistency. "To create a consistent product using multi-parameter data within Titan, you don't want the look of your maps to vary too much," says Legault. "Our standard Geosoft platform allows us to redistribute our menu systems to all our offices and even to the field. The model data are then more easily archived and named, and are transferable from one geophysicist to another and to our clients."

The switch to using standard tools has improved workflows within the Quantec offices, where creating a sophisticated map of the subsurface requires a lot of back-and-forth between geophysicists and data processors. "Now I can hand a plotting job to a non-geophysicist," says Legault. "All the things we were taught to do as young geophysicists, such as proper grid creation and contouring, can easily be extended to non-professionals using the menu system. It has really improved our throughput."

Although the custom menu is unique to the Titan technology, Legault hopes Quantec will be able to extend the system to all the services it provides.

The current stumbling block is cost. But as data volumes continue to explode, Quantec may find it can no longer afford to do without the resulting efficiencies.

"We can't possibly keep up with the advances in the operating system technology the way we used to," says Legault. "We rely on professionals to do that for us. Geosoft's ability to provide a menu system based on our needs helps us present a product that's consistent across the company."