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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...

Ron Britten
Exploring in challenging conditions

After decades of exploration in exotic locales, Ron Britten finds himself back in his home province of British Columbia, Canada, investigating what is surely the most extraordinary but potentially rewarding find of his career: an alloy deposit rich in nickel but devoid of sulphur.

“Nickel-iron alloy mineralization is difficult to see in the field because the lack of sulphides means there is no bright oxide or rust color to highlight the mineralization” says Britten, vice president of exploration for Vancouver-based First Point Minerals. “It’s also an unusual situation because we’re doing both exploration and metallurgy early on, before we’ve even done any drilling.”

The nickel-iron alloy mineral at First Point’s Decar property in north central BC is called awaruite. It’s a naturally occurring stainless steel that contains 75% nickel with the remainder consisting of iron and minor amounts of copper and cobalt. Awaruite is highly magnetic and heavy and could lend itself to either magnetic or gravity separation.

If First Point can prove up enough tonnage in the disseminated deposit and figure out how to extract the nickel, the junior will have expanded the repertoire of viable nickel deposits beyond nickel sulphides and laterites to include a sulphur-free awaruite source that requires no advanced processing.

“Without sulphides, you don’t have to worry about environmental issues like acid mine drainage down the road and you can bypass smelters and refiners,” says Britten

Britten spent his early childhood on an army base in Chilliwack, BC, where he developed a love of the outdoors that eventually propelled him into a geology career. He studied geological engineering at the University of British Columbia and later completed a PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra.

One of his most memorable exploration experiences was finding an outcrop containing chalcocite while following up geochemical anomalies in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the early days of his career.

Because sooty chalcocite is a copper sulphide mineral that forms as a result of tropical weathering and enrichment, the Canadian never seen the mineral in the field, only in a university lab. Even so, he identified the mineral correctly and uncovered a brand new copper porphyry system.
“It was one of those rare occasions when you send your samples off to the lab and then you get a radio phone call saying ‘hey, you’ve got lots of copper!’ ”

Britten went on to play a part in the discovery of  at least two more copper systems in PNG: the Nena deposit containing 32 million tonnes (mt) grading 2.3% copper, 0.58 g/t gold and 3.6 g/t silver and the Frieda River porphyry deposit containing 860 mt grading 0.47% copper and 0.31 g/t gold.

It was this early experience with copper porphyries in PNG and other parts of the circum pacific that helped him identify the unusual disseminated nickel at Decar.

The property was originally marketed to Britten in the 1996 as a potential gold target within ultramafics, but included in the option proposal package was a brief academic paper describing the style of nickel alloy occurrences.

“There were photos of a thin section that showed a disseminated style of mineralization associated with pervasive alteration and that was what piqued my interest,” says Britten.

But with nickel prices in the doldrums at US$3.5 per pound, First Point put the project on the shelf. About a decade later, when nickel was trading over US$20 per pound, Britten said to his partner Peter Bradshaw, the company’s president and CEO, “we need to dust off the Decar reports.”

This summer, First Point is drilling six to eight holes to investigate the potential for nickel alloy mineralization at depth. Cliffs Natural Resources Exploration Inc., a division of a large iron and coal producer familiar with the magnetic separation process, is earning an initial 51% interest in the property by spending US$4.5million on the property in four years, including a commitment of US$1million this year.

Britten, 59, considers the most important characteristics of a good explorer to be mental and physical fitness, a keen eye, and the ability to think in 3-D while considering the temporal events and processes that affect mineralization styles. Just as important is the willingness to put up with difficult physical conditions, says Britten, who once suffered from malaria and dengue fever, both potentially life-threatening tropical diseases caused by a mosquito-borne parasites.

“If you enjoy the outdoors and are not afraid of challenging conditions including bears, weather and bugs - both ones you can see and the ones you can’t - you’ll probably make a good explorer,” he says. “Just be sure to take a mosquito net.”