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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...

Discovery success linked to big data and the cloud,
says Rio Tinto

by Virginia Heffernan on December 11, 2013 expertise

Increasing discovery rates will require harnessing the power of big data and cloud computing, according to a presentation by Rio Tinto’s exploration chief Stephen McIntosh at the International Geophysical Conference in Melbourne.

Despite a steep appreciation in exploration spending over the past decade, the number of greenfield discoveries is falling every year. Narrowing this gap will require harnessing the power of big data and cloud computing, according to a presentation by Rio Tinto’s exploration chief Stephen McIntosh at the International Geophysical Conference in Melbourne.

“In a lot of cases, we have the data but we haven’t got the most out of it because of time constraints and our ability to find or “discover” this data,” Amanda Butt, McIntosh’s colleague and former manager of exploration and geophysics, said in a follow-up interview with Earth Explorer. “Now that we can do things more quickly, and efficiently we can get more effective information out of the data.”

Geophysics playing an increasingly important role

Developing key geophysical systems with the ability to map and integrate geology is a focus for Rio Tinto.  Geophysics has contributed significantly to nine of the 16 greenfields discoveries Rio Tinto has made since 1996, including most recently discoveries at the La Granja copper project in Peru. Copyright © 2009 Rio Tinto

Geophysics, in particular, has become an increasingly important exploration tool as the depth of the average discovery moves from close to surface in the 1950s to hundreds of metres deep. Indeed, geophysics contributed significantly to nine of the 16 greenfields discoveries Rio Tinto has made since 1996, including the Diavik diamond mine in Canada and more recently at the La Granja copper project in Peru.

In the 30 years previous, just a few of the company’s many finds had a significant geophysical component (e.g. the Elliot Lake uranium camp in Canada, the Parogominas bauxite deposit in Brazil and the Rossing uranium mine in Namibia).

Rio Tinto believes that geophysics will become an even more important discovery tool in the future with better collection, storage and processing of petrophysical data. “Geophysicists could do their jobs much more efficiently if they had access to quality petrophysical data,” said Butt. “But it’s not as routinely collected or as well organized as geochemical data tends to be.”

One way to cut down on the amount of time and effort required to transform petrophysical data into a reliable visualization of the subsurface is to use 3D inversion models.

3D inversion has become a fast, effective tool

Until recently, the use of 3D inversion – which gives explorers a snapshot of the most likely distribution of physical properties under the surface – was limited by computing power and a requirement for highly specialized knowledge. Inversions took days, sometimes weeks, to complete, and introducing physical constraints was problematic. But the rise of cloud computing and advancements in the technology have made the technique much quicker and far more accessible.

The rise of cloud computing and advancements in the technology have made very large scale, multiple parameter data integration and inversion techniques quicker and more accessible. Shown above the Geosoft VOXI inversion software service leverages cloud computing powered by Microsoft Azure.

At the geophysical conference in Melbourne, McIntosh referenced two separate techniques that accelerate the inversion process: AMIRA International’s P1022 project and Geosoft’s VOXI Earth Modelling. The former research project, led by Peter Fullagar of Fullagar Geophysics Pty. Ltd., converts EM data into magnetic 'moments' before inversion whereas Geosoft’s solution is to harness the computing power of the cloud for inversion.

“A lot of EM data has been collected, but historically it has been quite difficult and time consuming to invert it, try to turn it into a geological model, or constrain it in various ways so that the inversion makes sense considering what we know about the geology,” said Butt. “Ideally, you’d run a number of inversions to test various scenarios, and now we have the ability to do that quickly.”

She said the company has invested in the Geosoft VOXI suite of software services and is encouraging its geophysicists - who have traditionally dismissed inversion because of its complexities - to use 3D inversion on a more routine basis in their quest for new orebodies.

In addition to sponsoring collaborative R&D projects, such as AMIRA’s 3D inversion initiative, that are designed to improve discovery rates, Rio Tinto has its own portfolio of exploration research initiatives.

Eliminating noise barrier key to better accuracy

Eliminating the noise associated with geophysical exploration techniques is an important component of the company’s in house efforts. For example, Rio Tinto believes it will soon be able to remove aircraft noise from its VKI gravity gradiometer to better detect signals in the earth of just 1 Eö per hertz of bandwidth, an achievement McIntosh equated with an archer in Rio de Janeiro trying to shoot an arrow into a 10 cm bulls eye in Melbourne.

Rio has been working on the gravity system in collaboration with the University of Western Australia for the past 20 years. The technology has recently undergone extensive testing, including flight trials, in order to determine its effectiveness in finding those “needle in the haystack” deposits that elude other systems.

“In the future we need to improve on the techniques that we already have to eliminate noise and make them much more accurate so that we can be confident that what we are mapping is the geology and not instrument noise,” said Butt.

Deposits may have become harder to find in recent decades, but by eliminating instrument noise, making 3D inversion an integral part of the exploration process and harnessing the unprecedented computing power of the cloud, Rio Tinto aims to see what is currently hidden.

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