Europe has a favorable geology for hosting a variety of mineral resources. It covers a wide range of commodities including, for example iron, base and precious metals, REEs, PGEs, phosphate and not least industrial and construction materials. All these materials are essential for sustainable economic growth of the EU, for its continued technological advancements and for maintaining and improving the modern life style. There are, however, challenges such as exploration of deep targets or difficulties (e.g., noise and accessibility issues) in the vicinity of the exiting mines where continued supply of ore needs to be secured and environmental impacts of mining minimized. SmartExploration, a strong research and application team supported by a variety of technologically advanced SMEs and mining industry, will focus on developing tools and methods for exploration in highly challenging brown-field areas. New ideas will also be tested for green-field exploration. The goals will be achieved via development of new multidisciplinary approaches and through novel reprocessing and handling of legacy exploration data. Data mining, drilling-target generations and deep probing with new airborne, surface, in-mine and borehole electromagnetic (EM), seismic and potential field methods will be developed.
New exploration technologies to help secure supply of raw materials.
Our objectives include, but are not limited to, the following:
(1) Development of fast, reliable, and cost-effective geophysical tools and methods for high-resolution brown- and green-field exploration, in particular for the targeted EU raw materials;
(2) Exploration in deep mines (both open pit and underground);
(3) Exploration while mining (exploration guiding mining activities);
(4) Exploration with minimum- and to minimize environmental impacts;
(5) Data mining and generating targets and conceptual mineral-deposit modelling, signature and footprint studies;
(6) Novel approaches for handling, reprocessing and modelling of legacy exploration data;
(7) Application of the developed technologies to green-field areas to increase the knowledge about resources and integrating national exploration database.
SmartExploration will primarily aim at developing seismic and EM methods and instruments to be used separately and jointly in highly noisy environments. Full-scale active and passive seismic data recording will be possible by time synchronizing seismic and EM receivers (real time-series analysis to be possible). Down-dip exploration will be made possible in stressed mines and new exploration targets will be generated by novel data mining, reprocessing, and joint inversion and modelling of existing exploration and public data through geological surveys.
New downhole seismic and EM sensors will be developed that would allow larger penetration around boreholes and higher resolution imaging and delineation of mineral deposits and structures controlling them. Novel seismic methods, both active and passive, will be applied for exploration with higher resolution, but at lower cost and lower environmental impact. Measuring while drilling will be possible using modified versions of some of these sensors to provide information about the velocities and structures around the hole.
Data integration tools will be implemented to improve interpretation reliability and resolution for complex targets. Tests on green-field areas will be performed with the aim to increase knowledge about potential resources.
Communication, dissemination, and dedicated workshops and conferences will be executed during the project through a professional organization partner. Outreach activities, popular science, peer-reviewed articles and presentations, coauthored by industry and relevant SME partners, will have a priority in the project.
We also anticipate patents within the projects that could be commercialized through the SME partners. Joint PhD-degree university projects and industry internships will be possible and aimed for in the project. This should allow mobility among partners but more importantly young researchers (PhD and MSc students) involved in the project.
SmartExploration will develop new exploration technologies suitable for brown- and green-fields and generating targets for modern but systematic exploration programs. A major focus of the application will be on non-invasive geophysical methods by, for example, turning the noise (vibration and seismicity) into useful signal for geophysical exploration.
Novel data mining and mineral-deposit modelling will be performed, signatures and host geological structures will be studied, and suitable technologies for their exploration will be introduced and tested. The application will give its main focus in areas at and around existing mines, but will also have a component for green-field exploration. New surface, in-mine and downhole acquisition systems will be designed and engineered to increase sensitivity and resolution of exiting geophysical methods. Structural vectoring will be developed to complement some of the geophysical studies.
Industrial exploration workflows and data integration tools will become available to the industry. We anticipate SmartExploration to not only help exploration to succeed but also be useful for mine planning, allowing sustainable mining with lower environmental impact. Feasibility for mining and exploration should always be studied together if we are to secure the future supply of minerals.
Our consortium and application is currently under development and the ideas listed here are subject to change and new partners are expected to join.
UU will coordinate the project and also actively take part in the developments of geophysical tools and methods for brown and green field geophysical exploration. UU will also take parts in data collection and pilot studies as well as the supervision of graduate students to work in the project.