The people, science and technology behind discovery

Subscribe to the Magazine

Get new articles sent directly to
your mailbox.

Join the network

Twitter Updates Group Forum

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...

exSim exploration simulator software: CET training tool for mineral exploration decision making

by Jason C. Wong, Eun-Jung Holden, Peter Kovesi, Campbell McCuaig on June 3, 2012 technology

The need for undercover exploration is progressively increasing as surface resources are running out.  However, seeking mineral deposits at greater depth into the Earth’s crust brings significant challenges to the exploration industry. To address this, large investment has been made by industry and government in recent years for the development of technologies that allow mapping beneath a thick layer of weathered rock, sediment and soil.  Due to the difficulty and cost of collecting data at greater depths, undercover exploration increasingly relies on the ability of explorers to understand deeper subsurface geology using more limited sets of observations.  Thus undercover exploration presents a great challenge in exploration decision making and consequently, the improvement of skills, behaviour and practices of explorers is critical for successful exploration.

A team of researchers at the Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET) has been developing an exploration simulator called exSim with the specific aim to improve the behaviour of explorers through simulated training.  Harnessing the power of computer simulation, visualisation and an easy to use graphical user interface, exSim will provide an environment where explorers can test their strategies and learn the consequences of their decisions. The on-going development of exSim is geared toward providing a unique platform that will allow customised geological scenarios and situations (e.g. different deposit styles), potentially allowing users to become familiar with a broader range of exploration practices. In addition, this also allows for industry to set up their own scenarios that are relevant to an on-going exploration program. 

Previously, computer simulation has been applied to assist in the planning and training of the exploration process. The CLAIM [1] program allowed a drill test requested by a team of users to be simulated, although the requests themselves are required to be vetted and validated by a human game master.  In another example, drill test simulation through the software FOREUR has been incorporated into a training course, “Practical Course in Resource Economics and Mineral Exploration From discovery to evaluation” at Laval University, Canada [2]. The purpose of this course is for the training of exploration of a mineral prospect through geological analysis, simulated drilling and resource calculation. 

In contrast, exSim provides a simulation environment where exploration decisions at all levels; including greenfield ground selection, collection of various survey data through user defined survey design, targeting and drilling, can be tested through effective user-computer interaction, graphics and simulation. This article highlights the current progress in the development of exSim, including the overview of the workflow and functionalities that are planned.

The exSim workflow

The exSim software caters for strategic decisions in exploration including the selection of geophysical and geochemical surveys, and drill testing in a scenario based simulation. The scenario is concluded when the user has identified an economic deposit, or runs out of resources. 

Using a scenario that is specific for training objectives, the user is provided with; the expected type of mineral deposit being explored, some existing knowledge of the area, a financial and time budget, and also several low resolution datasets (such as regional scale geophysics data available from government surveys). The user is then free to test their exploration strategies by iteratively collecting finer detail datasets and interpreting the results to improve their geological knowledge of the area and to learn the consequences of their decision making. Ideally, the user will gain familiarity with the amount of geological knowledge gain verses the financial and time costs in each step of the simulated exploration.  Clearly, the most effective strategy is to maximise information gain at each step whilst maintaining the goal of targeting mineralisation at a minimal cost. 

For training purposes, it is important for exSim to provide feedback on user progress, thus an exploration scenario requires ground truth models of the area to generate simulations of geophysical and geochemical surveys, and drill tests. With these ground truth models, (whether magnetic, gravity, or 3D block models etc.) exSim can then provide feedback on how effectively the user designed the surveys and understood the area.

Main functionalities

The main functionalities of exSim comprise a compilation of survey tools, interpretation tools and user monitoring tools.

Survey tools allow for the selection of a survey type and the design of the selected survey. Firstly, the user makes a choice between the available survey types. The choices are mainly geophysical surveys such as magnetic, gravity, seismic, and electromagnatics. However, in addition to these, geochem based surveys and drilling can also be included. The current prototype of exSim features; magnetic and gravity surveys, and drill testing.

Once a survey type has been selected, the user is required to design and provide the parameters for the survey. The exSim prototype facilitates airborne and ground modes for both magnetic and gravity surveys and drill testing. Figure 1 shows the exSim interface for designing an airborne magnetics survey, specifying the flight height, line separation, and tie line separation. Figures 2 and 3 show the exSim interface for specifying drill holes (location, azimuth, dip and depth) and the resulting drill core visualisation respectively.

In addition, exSim also features a novel blending tool to encourage the perusal of multiple datasets. This circular blending tool allows for quick combined visualisation of multiple datasets (up to 5). Figure 4 illustrates an example where three datasets, namely; magnetics, gravity, and a geology map are blended with the circular tool. The final weighted combination of the datasets is determined by the position of the blue cursor dot. Note that Figures 1 and 5 also display blended images.

In combination, these tools provide training for the user to achieve a balance between the cost of the survey and the level of significant information it attains for exploration. In other words, it is ideal for a user to become adept at designing surveys whilst being aware of the effect of survey resolution versus cost and the subsequent likelihood of detecting targeted sized deposits.

Interpretation tools allow for the annotation of the user’s interpretation of the survey area. The current exSim prototype provides two layers for interpretation annotation; structural and lithological layers. For each of these layers, simple tools are available to mark like-line, or closed polygon features with labels of structure or lithology. In order to encourage flexibility, exSim will also have an export functionality that allows datasets to be displayed in other GIS packages. In this way, it is possible to use all the user’s usual interpretation methods and use exSim for annotating the interpretation. Figure 5 shows an example annotation of structural and lithological interpretation in exSim.

If the exploration scenario includes a pre-defined ground truth interpretation by an expert, exSim provides a feedback system to compare the user’s interpretation with the ground truth. In the exSim prototype, this feedback is given in terms of general accuracies of interpretation positioning and feature identification. This process is intended to be useful in giving guidance to the user in correctly understanding the results. Our on-going development includes refining and further enhancing the current feedback system.

User monitoring tools allow exSim to collect and store the user’s decisions (strategy) over the course of the exploration scenario. These strategy data will highlight the difference between expert and novice explorers, and aid in identifying the value and style of exploration experience. We also aim to collect statistics on the favoured survey tools and datasets used, and the comparative effectiveness in discovery. In the end, these sorts of analyses will lead to a better understanding of good and bad decisions in exploration, and ultimately, more effective exploration. Development of these tools will be a major focus of on-going research.

Potential Applications

The exSim software has many potential applications. For example, exSim can be used for training within industry by using customised scenarios, specific to the training objectives. Also, exSim is useful for interpretation assistance and thus interpretation training to improve consistency amongst and within-individual interpreters. In addition, exSim could also be used for survey planning (in verifying effective survey parameters before running it in real life), as well as a research tool (with the collected information on how a user interacts with data, and thus ascertaining the value of certain data).


The exSim software aims to provide simulation at all levels of exploration decisions, from area selection, survey design, to target drilling. With the open-sandbox approach of providing these tools and leaving the ultimate decisions to the user, exSim enables the user to freely experiment with different strategies. Coupling this with flexible and customisable scenarios, exSim’s scope is very broad and thus with the many potential directions exSim can take, and the main challenge is steering the project in a way that maximises benefits to industry and education. Regardless, it is the hope of the researchers that exSim will become a cost and time effective tool, useful for refining exploration experience in the near future.

Acknowledgements: We like to thank Jon Hronsky, Lisa Vella, Mark Armstrong, and Mark Jessell for their invaluable advice and input. We acknowledge Geoscience Australia for the aeromagnetic and ground gravity data of the Kalgoorlie area shown in Figures 1, 4 & 5; the Geological Survey of Western Australia for the aeromagnetic data of the West Musgraves shown in Figure 2.

[1] Bauchau C.; Jaboyedoff M.; Vannier M., CLAIM: a new personal computer-assisted simulation model for teaching mineral exploration techniques. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences and Geomechanics Abstracts, Volume 33, Number 6, September 1996, pp. 265A-265A(1).

[2] Beaudoin G., Practical Course in Resource Economics and Mineral Exploration,, Jan 2012.

Source: CET Quarterly News, Issue 19, March 2012 available for download from the CET Member site.