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Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.

News & Views

News Archive

December 7, 2016

Geosoft introduces IP and resistivity inversion in VOXI Earth Modelling

Geosoft has added induced polarization and resistivity data inversion to its VOXI Earth Modelling 3D inversion software service. Geoscientists are now able to create detailed 3D models of conductivity and chargeability from IP and resistivity survey data with VOXI. The resulting models can assist in interpreting and targeting regions for mineral and environmental applications...

December 5, 2016

Mexico's Deepwater Round Exceeds Expectations

Some of the world's biggest oil companies showed up Dec. 5 and agreed to invest on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico, proving that deepwater exploration still has a pulse despite challenging market conditions...

November 30, 2016

Magnetic inversion results for Ngamiland available for download

A regional-scale geophysical inversion of magnetic field data in the Ngamiland region of northwestern Botswana is now available for download from the Botswana Geoscience Portal, a partnership initiative of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, industry sponsors and Geosoft...

November 30, 2016

LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from their engineering test runs to full science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30...

November 9, 2016

International Volcano Scientists Unite

For the first time, the United States will host the international Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop, previously held only in Italy. The workshop will take place this month in Vancouver, Washington. It is designed specifically for volcano observatories around the world and their staff to exchange ideas and best practices with each other...

October 4, 2016

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming...

October 3, 2016

Uganda Targets Up to U.S.$100 Million for Mineral Exploration

Uganda is well endowed with mineral resources and, like many naturally-gifted African countries, is becoming keen on ensuring that these resources play a transformative role in its long-term structural transformation dream - the Vision 2040...

September 9, 2016

Small-Scale Fishers Get A Big Boost With First-Of-Its Kind Impact Investment Fund

Conservation organization Rare announces the Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries at Our Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility, one of the largest funders of conservation worldwide, will be investing $6 million into the fund...

September 1, 2016

Scientists take to the skies to track West African pollution

Scientists operating research aircraft over West Africa have detected organic materials in the atmosphere over a number of urban areas, contributing to concerns of the rise in pollution across the region...

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

Exploring in Africa
Regional initiatives and prospectivity

Virginia Heffernan

Professor Kim Hein in Zanna, Burkino Faso

Professor Kim Hein in Zanna, Burkino Faso

Kim Hein has been itching to get back to West Africa since she worked there as an industry geologist more than a decade ago. So when the opportunity to be part of a team researching the region's exploration potential arose, Hein - the world's first and only female professor of mining geology - jumped at it.

"I worked there a number of years ago and I fell in love with the area," says Hein, the Chamber of Mines Chair and Professor of Mining Geology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. "I realized very quickly that although there were a lot of resources to be found there, it was dramatically underexplored."

The goal of the research project, known as the West African Exploration Initiative (WAXI), is to enhance the exploration potential of the Leo-Man Shield, a Proterozoic craton that spans several West Africa countries including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo and is the sister to the Guiana Shield in South America.

WAXI will use integrated research and data gathering to fill in gaps in geological knowledge, help mining companies to focus their exploration in areas of maximum prospectivity and assist the local geological surveys in their role of providing data and information.

"Even though the French have done a lot of work there, it is a giant craton and there is so much work that still needs to be done," says Hein. "It's very difficult to think about the potential if there is no data."

Hein says Paleoproterozoic terrains such as the Leo-Man Shield were once thought to have little mineral potential, but that view is changing as more and more discoveries are made in these two billion year old rocks.

She is working with mining companies to refine their exploration models by, for instance, finding out more about the structures that cross-cut the shield and host many of the region's gold deposits. "You want to be smarter in the way that you explore beyond doing a soil geochemical survey across a whole craton or using artisanal mining as an indicator of potential," she says.

The research is sponsored by the mining sector though AMIRA International, an Australian association dedicated to supporting collaborative minerals industry research. The lead institution is the Laboratoire des Mécanismes et Transferts en Géologie based in Toulouse.

The research team has just completed stage one of the 4-year program that involved a comprehensive data audit and gaps analysis of the current state of exploration knowledge. Stage two will draw upon the results of the first stage to fill in the gaps, particularly in geophysics, geochemistry and geochronology, and collate the results into a single web-based database open to all sponsors and local researchers.

Another important thrust of the program is capacity building in the region. Industry can take a lead role in this regard by providing training to local talent and supporting universities in the area.

 "Most of the universities in West Africa are under resourced and are really scraping to keep going," says Hein. "That makes it difficult to provide a high level of training and produce students who would suit industry and suit modern exploration."

Lack of skilled personnel is one of the many challenges facing explorers drawn to Africa by historically high metal prices and the continent's reputation for highly prospective yet underexplored terrain. Other barriers to exploration include poor or non-existent infrastructure, safety and security issues, and an inconsistent legal framework to regulate exploration and mining.

John Blaine doing Uranium reconnaissance in Botswana

John Blaine conducts Uranium reconnaissance in Botswana

"Probably the dominant feature of Africa is the diversity of countries," says John Blaine, a former managing director of Falconbridge in Southern Africa and now a consultant to Australia's Impact Minerals. "You're not dealing with one entity when it comes to mining policy and that can be your first challenge when you've chosen terrain that covers adjoining countries." 

And that's if the country has a functioning policy to begin with. Hein says that while some West African countries such as Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso have well-established legal frameworks, others with a history of political strife such as Sierra Leona and Liberia are much further behind. Because the Leo-Man shield and its resources span several countries, it is important that there be some consistency in legislation among the jurisdictions.

To that end, The World Bank recently hosted a two-day meeting among stakeholders in the region to discuss ways in which West and Central African countries can improve their agreements with foreign mining companies and manage their mining revenues to derive longer-term economic benefits.

There is also consensus that a lack of quality infrastructure may be the biggest constraint to economic growth, says Andrew Maggs, a specialist in infrastructure development in Africa. "This is particularly relevant to mining ventures that are frequently located in remote areas," says Maggs. "The more difficult it is to access these sites, the higher the operating expenses."

To address the problem, both multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) and individual countries such as China are spending more than ever  on infrastructure in Africa. The AfDB committed US$3 billion to infrastructure development in 2007, up from US$1.36 billion the year earlier, while the World Bank contributed US$2.4 billion. The recently established China-Africa Development fund is expected to inject additional billions into infrastructure projects over the next few years as China secures badly needed sources of metals and oil.

Exploration Camp in Namibia

Exploration Camp in Namibia

Just as the development of a legal framework requires cooperation among adjoining countries, so does infrastructure development, especially when it comes to transport corridors or power projects. Maggs sees proposed power projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (INGA III) and Tanzania (Stieglers Gorge Hydro-Electric) taking a front seat as the power crisis on the continent continues.

Another barrier to exploration in Africa is security, from both a personal safety and health perspective. "Africa has got some weird and wonderful diseases in places, the biggest of which is malaria" says Blaine. "Many people underestimate the potential threat of malaria in many of the areas of Africa."

But for those willing to take the risk, Africa offers rich pockets of underexplored terrain. Blaine advises explorers new to the continent to first focus a commodity with which they have experience, find the terrains that host that commodity, then narrow down options based on practical matters such as safety and security of title.

Impact Minerals, for instance, focuses on nickel and uranium in Southern Africa because Blaine and the company's founder are respective experts in these two commodities and the region offers a relatively secure environment for exploration.

"Africa is a broad canvas," says Blaine. "There is huge potential in different regions, and there are so many unexplored areas. I think it's important to focus on what you're good at, and specialize in that."

For Professor Hein, that expertise and passion lies in the Paleoproterozoic geology of West Africa, where she sees enormous potential.

"There's great geology, a great work environment, great people, and great experiences," she says. "Yes it's hot, dry and there are struggles, but I simply love it."