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...

Geophysics aids Sepon UXO clearance

by Dan Zlotnikov on December 12, 2013 applied

Michael Laneville, principal geophysicist, within MMG's UXO Department, adopted a geophysics-centric approach to modernize its survey work and dramatically reduce risk for the company's Sepon copper-gold mine site which straddles the UXO-contaminated Ho Chi Minh Trail.

[Click to enlarge]

Time domain electromagnetic data (EM) which is the grid more clearly seen on the right of the image with magnetic data on the far left, and both sets on top of each other through the middle. Two surveys were performed in this particular area due to the difficulty in UXO interpretation caused by the highly variable soils in Laos.

Laos is paying a hefty economic price for inheriting thousands of unexploded ordnance (UXO), and little wonder: developers are naturally reluctant to build factories and hotels, when simply laying the foundation can trigger a buried bomb. Major industrial projects thoroughly cleared of the threat are therefore all the more important to the country’s economy.

One such project is the Sepon copper-gold mine in the nation’s southern region. Owned by global resource company MMG Ltd., the massive open-pit operation generated $806 million in revenue in 2012, or 8.5% of Laos’s gross domestic product of $9.3 billion. Problem is, the mine’s concession area straddles a section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which remains heavily contaminated with UXOs.

The unexploded bombs, some as large as 3,000 lbs., pose a particular threat to the open-pit mine. Buried too deep to be disturbed by people walking over top of them, the bombs are much more likely to go off when struck by the blade of a bulldozer. Thus each new work area must be cleared of UXOs before development can begin, resulting in costly delays and diminished production.

A few years ago, two bombs were discovered only after digging had begun in a cleared area. Although no one was injured, the incident forced MMG to review and update its UXO clearance processes. The foremost change was the addition of Michael Laneville as principal geophysicist within the mine’s UXO Department. Laneville wasted no time in adopting a geophysics-centric approach, one which has allowed the department to modernize its survey work and dramatically reduce owner MMG’s exposure to risk.

Previous efforts to clear UXOs relied on traditional “mag and flag” methods, he explains. Operators would walk through the survey area with metal detectors to locate UXO . Unfortunately, this method left plenty of room for error. By contrast, Laneville says, digital data capture and analysis enable geophysicists to verify that all field equipment is working properly, that operators are acquiring data at proper speeds, are free of metal or other sources of ‘noise,’ and that areas are 100% covered.. The crucial benefit is that digital data capture can clearly demonstrate that the equipment can detect known ordnance types at the required depths.

The collected data are processed through the UX-Detect, UX-Process and UX-Analyze modules of Geosoft’s Oasis Montaj, says Laneville. Oasis montaj is also used for daily testing of the survey equipment itself and the digital archiving of the collected data. Laneville notes that this clearance archive is one area where Sepon is well ahead of other UXO clearance groups working in Laos.

But what of the two missed bombs?

Field trials have include testing of equipment from over a dozen leading manufacturers and service providers, to find detection systems suited for the challenging soils at Sepon.

Upon their discovery, MMG closed down the affected pit and started a two-month-long investigation into how the bombs eluded the survey teams. The shutdown was costly, but no bombs have been missed since employing a geophysical approach. Having a digital survey archive means such investigations can now be completed quickly and economically – a considerable advantage for NGOs with limited budgets and large areas to survey and clear.

Laneville adds that Laos is unique in that its soil is highly variable.

“If you search for UXO in Lebanon for example, where there is sand for hundreds of square miles, what holds true in one area may still hold true in other areas farther away,” he says. “But at a place like Sepon, there's variability in soil hardness in the order of tens of metres.” The variability means one sensor type may work in an area but not another. Modern geophysics offers the extensive toolbox from which Sepon can select the best one for each area’s topography, UXO, and soil type. Sepon is believed to be the only organization in Laos using geophysics, though other companies are monitoring its digital survey work closely. “They know we’re cutting edge and want to see what we’ve tried, what has worked, and what hasn’t,” Laneville says.

After many years of slow and halting clearance efforts, Laos remains locked in its struggle against buried bombs. With its leadership role and spotless safety record, Sepon just may be the catalyst the country needs to make the land safe once again.

View all articles »