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Sustainable mineral resources by utilizing new Exploration technologies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Smart Exploration (Sustainable mineral resources by utilizing new Exploration technologies)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2019-06-01 al 2020-11-30

Europe was the birthplace of many geophysical methods and instruments for exploring mineral/natural resources. Nonetheless, it did not take very long to go from a pioneer to become a follower in this. During the recent years and after the realization that Europe’s economic growth and the transition towards decarbonization requires access to the so-called critical raw materials, several initiatives including Smart exploration were launched to help provide, through examples, solutions and access to the critical raw materials in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly and socially acceptable manner.
The ultimate goal of the project was to develop cost-effective, environmentally-friendly tools and methods for (i) geophysical exploration, as well as (ii) other aspects such as geological and geochemical target vectoring and generations. The project wanted to inspire new technical as well as ethical solutions in the sector and illustrate that Europe is still capable to provide to develop hardware as well as software for the challenge of mineral exploration. Five state-of-the-art prototypes for both greenfield and brownfield exploration sites were intended involving the use of UAV and helicopter-based geophysical systems, electrically-driven seismic vibrator, prototypes for in-mine and slimhole geophysical surveys as well as developing new algorithms for better handling and modelling of legacy and modern geophysical and geological data. A couple of the prototypes envisaged in the project such as the broadband UAV-EM based system is highly innovative and would be the first in the market.
How-to solutions were also intended and through different dissemination materials like rapid-fire talks and innovative posters reached to the outside world. The project helped training more than 25 young professionals to become skilled explorationists or entrepreneurs in/or related fields.
During a period of 3 years, Smart Exploration, a consortium of 27 partners from academia, mining industry and high-tech companies, managed to develop 5 geophysical prototypes and 6 imaging and modelling solutions to partly address deep mineral exploration in Europe. The project as a whole inspired the geophysical community in Europe and beyond in order to contribute with both technical and ethical disciplines tackling the access to raw materials in this critical era of energy transition.
All the prototypes have been validated at least at on exploration site implying a minimum TRL of 5-6. The systems have already attracted several companies for their use, sale and/or for upscaling commercial projects. A couple of commercial projects have already been born.
Integration work at the Gerelokas helped to suggest potential bauxite deposits down-faulted and worth exploring at greater depths. At Neves-Corvo, high conductivity anomalies were found down-dip the Lombador deposits. These high conductivity zones were found to be associated with gravity highs found in the 3D constrained modelling work. For the first time ever, a full-scale surface-inmine seismic survey became possible through idea developing and two of the prototypes for down-dip imaging of the deposits utilizing the exploration tunnels. At Siilinjärvi, a number of integrated studies helped to suggest potential continuation of the apatite-bearing carbonatite rocks southwest of the main pit. At Blötberget, an attempt was made to estimate additional resources found through integrating existing data with 3D potential field modelling workflow constrained with the 3D sparse dataset acquired at the site. The estimate from the integrated workflow is that approximately 10 Mt iron-oxide deposits are present at depth and that several fault systems may have controlled the current 3D geometry of the deposits.

Through a number of virtual workshops, integration of various datasets from three sites was accomplished leading to suggest areas of special interest for focused exploration. In terms of disseminating project results, majority of the activities focused on in-person and virtual events and presentations. The project ran nearly 10 tailored branded webinars focusing on different time zones. In addition, partners presented their works at the Mineral Exploration Symposium co-organized by the clustered EU-funded project, EAGE and EASME. We also took an active role in organizing and presenting at the Best of 2020 Mineral Exploration Geophysics workshop. During the 3rd conference on Mining and Mineral Exploration Geophysics, our partners and young professionals presented 15 scientific presentations as well as a keynote talk. A dedicated special issue on the five prototypes developed in the project was published in August detailing the development works and benefits these prototypes provide for the mineral exploration industry. With a couple of thousands of followers, over 100 findable peer-reviewed publications, five prototypes and six imaging and modelling algorithms, 25 trained young professionals, additional resources and targets generated from the exploration sites, Smart Exploration proved to be not only a strong technical project but also ethical in the sense that we combined the two when approaching the public and discussing social license in the mineral exploration industry showing through examples how we see mineral exploration can be done more cost-effective and environmentally friendly while making sure that the required resolution at depth and main objectives of an exploration work are met.
The project while is formally terminated, it will be active for another year in the social media making sure that the development works will get to the market and used for up-scaling project works. This will also help disseminate the work of a number of PhD students that are typically more than 3 years. We anticipate 5-7 PhD theses and an additional of 10-15 more peer-reviewed publications from the project.
New modelling solutions include (1) 3D frequency and time-domain electromagnetic modelling, (2) thin-sheet time domain modelling and IP responses, (3) new solutions for near-surface seismic characterization and related deeper imaging improvements, (4) generation of additional seismic data from sparse active-source data with lower environmental impact, (5) depth imaging and (6) full-waveform inversion for improved velocity model buildings.

• Detailed integration and modelling work at Ludvika (Sweden) suggest potential additional resources laterally and at depth, historical mine tailings were mapped as a by-product of the work demonstrating how exploration can also help future development of the site particularly when mine tailings are concerned.
• The workflow at Gerolekas (Greece) suggests more bauxite deposits downfaulted a few hundreds of meters below the current mining level.
• Following the example of legacy data and their potentials, the prototypes are all designed to be simple, effective and cost saver while making sure they are compatible with the environmental standards. The E-Vib is literally a best example to name here meeting already Australian standards as non-invasive against hydraulic vibrators. Some of the solutions are mean to maximize what are available for exploration and utilize them for improved targeting whether it is greenfield or an in-mine.
Ludvika 3D survey and results
The five prototypes