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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...

Bob Burrell
Discovery of a lifetime

Imagine this. You’re out on a traverse, thinking hard about a geological problem that you just can’t seem to solve, when you stumble across something you definitely weren’t looking for: the sub-Sahara’s oldest and richest shipwreck.

That’s what happened to Bob Burrell, head of Namdeb Diamond Corporation’s mineral resource department, when he found a cluster of copper ingots while investigating one of the company’s diamond operations in the sands of Namibia’s Sperrgebiet (German for “Forbidden Coast”) last April.

The ingots turned out to be remnants of a 16th-century Portuguese trading vessel loaded with swag – including thousands of gold coins - for trade in India. Without a bit of luck and Burrell’s keen eye, the bounty may well have ended up in the mine’s crusher.

“The mine had been troubling us for a while because it wasn’t producing the amount of diamonds that we had forecast and we couldn’t figure it out,” says Burrell, a 1972 geology graduate from the University of Edinborough, who was on the brink of retirement when he made the find. “We went to the site to try to solve this geological problem and spent about an hour walking over the area.”

But as the team returned to their vehicles, Burrell felt a niggling dissatisfaction. He borrowed a camera from one of his geologists and returned to the site to take photos for the presentation he knew he would have to give to explain to management why this particular patch of beach sand was not living up to its promise.

While snapping away, he happened to look down. At his feet was a boulder, much the same as all the other boulders commonly found in the gravel deposited at the mouth of the Orange River, where most of Namdeb’s alluvial diamond operations are located.

Only this one was almost a perfect half-sphere with a flat surface, not something you see much of in nature. Burrell’s instinct was to pick it up, but when it proved too heavy, he knew it was no boulder but a mass of pure metal. The other half, cleaved by equipment used to mine the diamonds, lay just steps away with similar “boulders” within eyesight.

Burrell raced back to the vehicles and asked the other geologists to return to the site with him. “When we went back we found a piece of timber and then a couple of bronze pipes, so by the time we left we were sure we had a shipwreck but we didn’t know if it was modern or ancient,” he says.

Burrell immediately contacted Dieter Noli, Namdeb’s resident archaeologist, who was able to confirm that the “pipes” were in fact breech-loading cannons of a type that were popular in the Mediterranean nations 500 years ago.

“If there is one hero in this whole story, it is Bob,” says Noli. “He not only saw what the miners had missed, he immediately stopped the mining, had the area cordoned off and set about finding out more about what was going on.”

During excavation, the site yielded thousands of artifacts including 22 tons of copper ingots trademarked by 16th century German financier Anton Fugger, cannons and swords and muskets, more than 2000 gold coins, and hundreds of elephant tusks.

(The Namdeb team had come across tusks at the site before, but assumed that they were the remains of elephants that had been washed down the Orange River when it was in flood.)

Further investigation by an international team of archeologists has determined that the ship is probably the Bom Jesus, which set sail from Lisbon on March 7th, 1533, loaded with valuables to trade for spices in India. The ship carried roughly three hundred people, among them sailors, nobles and slaves.

Rounding the corner of the notoriously treacherous Cape of Good Hope, the ship ran aground on the desolate southwestern coast of Africa.

The area of the discovery, the Sperrgebiet, remains remote and restricted to employees of Namdeb, a joint venture between the Government of Namibia and De Beers, who have been mining the beach sand for diamonds deposited by the Orange River for decades.

If it hadn’t been for the combination of a geologist’s keen eye and Namdeb’s decision to report the find and suspend mining until the site could be properly excavated, the shipwreck might never have come to light.

“It is diamond mining's gift to the nation, and it is the nation's gift to the world,” says Noli.

Burrell has spent his entire 37-year career with De Beers, looking for diamonds all over southern Africa with varying degrees of success. In just a few months, he will retire to Cape Town’s idyllic Hout Bay, content in the knowledge that he has made one of the greatest discoveries of his generation, even if it was “not exactly what (he) was looking for”.