Mikael Bergqvist describes how X-ray vision through the drill core can be used for enhanced mapping of mineral resources
Novel scanning technology is enabling the mining sector to completely rethink how geologic information is processed and analysed. Orexplore’s drill core scanner, GeoCore X10, delivers digital geology at a touch of a button. Data is easily accessible from anywhere, using Orexplore Insight or through export into the user’s favourite geological modelling tool.
The technology originates in Swedish medical X-ray research and consists of the combination of two well-proven X-ray measurement methods: X-ray transmission imaging; and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. The two methods are combined in a novel way to get information from the stone’s interior in 3D. Together with the measured weight of the samples, a mineral model of the entire volume of the drill cores can be formed.
Scanning drill core with the GeoCore X10 provides on-site structural 3D imaging, geochemical sample analysis, measured bulk density and rock mechanical data. It is non-destructive and preserves the bed rock formation. The system is designed for fast and efficient on-site use, also in remote locations, with flexible options for data transfer and storage.
Orexplore’s Insight software brings powerful, instant visualisation of the analysis results and allows the user to annotate linear and planar structures; with oriented drill core, the orientation is preserved and the structures can be annotated and exported also in reference to the collar coordinate system. This takes the burden of doing coordinate transformation off the geologist.
The user selects ranges for data export, and the type of data: structures, density, elemental concentrations, along with the chosen annotations. One can also extract information on grain size, distributions and texture.
GeoCore X10 helping the mining sector find missing pieces of the puzzle
By combining the data sets, the geologist can make new connections; a seemingly simple data type – such as continuous density measurements along the drill hole – might provide the missing piece of the giant underground jigsaw puzzle, characterising the demanding task of building a model of the site specific geological conditions.
Continuous data also means a lot of data. This conveniently lends itself to what, in modern words, often is referred to as data mining. Orexplore partners with miners and explorers across the globe, to figure out how to best extract and automate actionable information, and to establish new and updated workflows based on the new information streams. These collaborations allow the company to further develop the analysis capabilities of the GeoCore X10 and associated algorithms, ensuring that industry demands are identified and met.
Real-world GeoCore X10 case studies
Two such examples are the engagements with Asarel-Medet, a Bulgarian large scale low concentration Copper mine operation, and Hellas Gold, at the Kassandra Mines in Halkidiki in Greece, a gold, silver, lead-zink and copper operation, both through the EU co-financed Horizon2020 project X-Mine, under grant agreement No 730270.
Desislav Ivanov at Asarel-Medet comments: “The scanner is used in specialised geological exploration, together with the Insight software for result assessment and analysis, with a goal to improve ore mining and processing efficiency.”
The results are then used in ore deposit modelling and mining operations planning software systems. And there is a long-term vision of these methods, revolutionising the exploration and characterisation of existing and new deposits. The mineral grain size, their distribution and the entire structural, geological, geochemical and mineralogical information would be known even at the exploration stage.
In the long run, the goal is more efficient mining and exploration and more precise location of mining sites, which directly leads to less mining waste and lower environmental impact. One of the X-Mine project’s goals is also to make smaller and complex deposits economically viable, in turn providing Europe with increased mineral resources.
In Greece, Sofia Kalampaliki at Hellas Gold used the scanned data for three purposes: digital high resolution structural core logging; quick and non-destructive identification of geotechnical features; and data enhanced 3D Geo modelling.
It was particularly interesting to see how measured structures in the oriented drill cores could be imported into Leapfrog and aligned with the global coordinate system. Another key finding (and natural next step) would be to incorporate the produced density model to the monthly reconciliation process comparing mine and mill output.
Although the trend to digitise and automate mineral mapping of deposits is clear, there are two critical issues that need to be resolved. Firstly, it is important to turn data into useful information, forming a basis for decision-making and efficiency. The second challenge is to overcome the tradition within the mining industry of working in silos with very little communication between departments. The information needs to be shared throughout the value chain for this “big data” to have a proper impact and effect.
Mikael Bergqvist is CTO of Orexplore