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...

Freeing up time for mine-finding: the Cameco solution

by Virginia Heffernan on April 2, 2014 technology

Cameco is clear on its corporate objectives to become a more efficient, streamlined and standardized organization. Cameco’s exploration department’s data management strategy and implementation is striving toward this goal while applying best practice.

Saskatoon-based Cameco relies on geophysics and downhole geology to find new mineralization. Shown above, typical Athabasca basin drilling landscape.

Members of Cameco’s exploration team are anticipating a time when their data management is so efficient that they can carve out an extra day in their weekly schedule to look for mines instead of spending those valuable hours searching for and manipulating data.

“We’re hoping that everything we’re doing right now will make us at least 20% more efficient, not to reduce manpower, but to satisfy employees’ concerns that they just don’t have enough time to be geologists,” says Mike McClelland, director of land tenure and geospatial information, who is spearheading the uranium miner’s efforts to upgrade and standardize its data repositories and provide a common interface to access them.

Creating standards

Saskatoon-based Cameco has already built separate repositories for its key GIS, geological, geochemical, geophysical, and land management data. Every bit of data from the company’s active projects in Saskatchewan, Australia and northern Canada is being examined and either accepted into or rejected from the repositories.

Senior management approved the data management process in early 2013 after recognizing that although the exploration team had spent millions of dollars to collect and interpret data over the years, the information was scattered among various repositories in different stages of analysis, and sometimes even solely in the brains of those maintaining the data.

The biggest challenge was to standardize the data in the same formats for all of Cameco’s projects around the world. Until recently, the company’s geoscientists were using variety of software programs depending on personal preference. Now about 80% of their interpretation work relies on standard platforms.

The other 20% (such as modelling) is so specialized that it can’t be centralized. “It’s impossible to standardize everything and we don’t want to constrain our really deep thinkers,” says McClelland. “I’ve seen more failures than successes at getting data in order by trying to account for every minute detail.”

Transparency also had to improve so that data could be found consistently in the same place and shared by everyone. Yet another challenge was to overcome natural human resistance to change. “If it wasn’t for the support of the end-users in exploration and their determination to adapt to change, our implementation efforts would never have been realized,” says McClelland.

But with support from the executive team and a general recognition that the painful adaptation would be worth it in the end, Cameco was able to make significant progress throughout the year.

“Compared to 12 months ago, the team I lead is able to access data much more quickly without having to ask others for it,” says Dave Thomas, director of exploration geoscience for Cameco. “They are operating much more efficiently now that everything is self serve.”

[Click to enlarge]

Geosoft DAP Seeker has greatly improved efficiency in locating centralized geophysical data.

Using DAP to store hundreds of surveys

Cameco uses ESRI’s ArcServer for its GIS data, Geosoft’s DAP server for its geophysics and acQuire for geochemistry. Each repository is assigned a “subject matter specialist” responsible for ensuring QA/QC and uploading data to the server.

Cameco spent $45 million of their 2013 exploration budget continuing to focus efforts in Australia and Saskatchewan probing deep into the Athabasca basin. The depth of targets in the basin limits the use of surface geochemistry tools, so the company relies almost entirely on geophysics and downhole geology to find new mineralization.

“Because of the size of the targets and depths at which we are working, we put a lot of time, effort and thought into geology, more than for any other commodity,” says McClelland. “We’re not looking for a porphyries at 800 metres, we’re looking for pseudo vein structures at 800 metres.”

Cameco uses a variety of geophysical tools to find those structures. EM surveys target conductive horizons in the basement rocks that are proxies for the faults that control mineralization. For mapping alteration around the fault structures, resistivity and gravity are essential tools. And seismic techniques are applied to enhance regional exploration and help the mining group understand the geology of certain advanced projects before they break ground.

As a result, getting the DAP server up and running to handle results from about 600 geophysical surveys on several active projects was a key step in the data management plan. DAP allows explorers to efficiently catalog, manage, deliver and visualize large, geospatial data. So far, Cameco has uploaded about 40% of its survey results to DAP and hopes to complete the rest of the upload by the end of 2014. Once all the active project data is documented, the company will start working on historical data.

Taking out the trash

But before the information is uploaded, it has to be cleansed. By identifying duplicates and triplicates of data, different versions of the same grid and files that had no value, Geosoft’s service team was able to reduce the size of the database by 55%, from two terabytes to about 800 GB. Cameco reduced the size even further, to about 500 GB, after assigning a full-time DAP administrator.

“We only have to do this right once and it’s done for eternity, unlike a folder structure when you have to keep continuously cleaning out the folders year after year,” says McClelland. “That value can be realized on present or future projects or even sold to third parties. You don’t really know what you’ve got until its all in one place.”

Designing a common interface

The downside of having different types of exploration data in separate repositories is that while data integrity is ensured, interoperability suffers. So now Cameco is working with Geosoft on a common web interface that connects the repositories on the back end so that explorers can retrieve data quickly and easily.

The Geospatial Envision Technology & Information Transfer (GET-IT) System provides a single web interface to data that is managed by the ArcServer (GIS, geology, and land management data), DAP (geophysical data) and acQuire (drillhole and geochemical data) servers. Geoscientists, management and other permitted users will be able to access the GET-IT system via a web browser and then search, preview, interrogate, and extract data from the connected servers and make use of simple map-making capabilities.

Drill core is the final and most expensive product of Cameco’s exploration process. Geologist Nathan Barsi ensures no details are overlooked.

In other words, geoscientists will be able to zoom into an area of interest and find all of the data ever collected from that area, whether that be drill summaries, geochemical reports or land permits. Once they’ve found the data, they’ll be able to click on an icon to launch everything onto their desktop application for further analysis using  “Cameco-centric” symbols, colours and templates that are consistent throughout.

“We’ll actually be able to get down to the interpretation instead of spending days trying to find the data, massage it and manipulate it without ever really knowing if we have the right data in front of us,” says Thomas. “GET-IT will allow us to put our brainpower into how and where to drill the next hole.”

McClelland says the work Cameco is doing now to organize, standardize and make data accessible should put the company in an excellent position to take advantage of future software applications that will be able to analyze massive amounts of exploration data based on certain criteria and, from that analysis, identify targets.

“Hopefully, as we get into cloud environments and perhaps even a different realm of partnerships and joint ventures, companies and individuals will be able to combine data in a systematic manner and use computer algorithms to help process it.”

View all articles »