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Passive seismic techniques for environmentally friendly and cost efficient mineral exploration

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PACIFIC (Passive seismic techniques for environmentally friendly and cost efficient mineral exploration)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-11-30

The PACIFIC consortium has developed a new, low-cost and environmentally friendly tool for exploring for mineral deposits beneath the surface. The approach built on the "traditional" passive seismic method, which is capable of providing useful broad-brush background information about the geological and structural setting of mineralised regions, but lacks the resolution needed for reliable identification of ore bodies. Two radically new developments were developed: reflection passive seismic, which is appropriate for greenfields exploration, and the multi-array method, which would typically be deployed during drilling or in brownfields exploration. Both techniques have major advantages over current techniques, namely relatively low cost and minor impact on the environment. Through the participation of two mineral exploration companies in the project, the techniques were validated at test sites in Canada and Sweden, and brought from TRL2 to TRL5. Research on social acceptance and public perception of risk for mining activities accompanied the deployment and testing of the techniques.
The PACIFIC consortium comprised a major university and a research institute which developed the theoretical background and codes for data treatment, a mid-tier mining company and a junior exploration company which provided logistics support and access to test sites, two small service companies which conducted the surveys and analysed the data, a geological survey which conducted research on public opinion, and a company which managed the project. The PACIFIC project has transferred the fruits of cutting-edge scientific research to industry and has launched the development and deployment of new mineral exploration methods. This will enhance the competitiveness of the European mineral exploration industry, contribute to the discovery of new European ore deposits and decrease the dependence of European industry on imported mineral products.
The PACIFIC project has achieved most of the project’s objectives:
• Background information was compiled and analysed for use in imaging and data processing during the project.
• New tools related to the extraction of body waves in ambient seismic noise were developed.
• A survey at the Marathon test site in Canada was conducted: sensors were successfully deployed, data were extracted and processed.
• A test of the multiarray method was performed in Kallak, Sweden, in August 2021.
• An Environmental, Health, Safety and Risk Management Committee Charter was established and an Environmental and Safety Risk Database set up.
• A preliminary study on ways of communicating mining activities was undertaken. A computerised experiment for the survey on public perception of mineral exploration activities was developed and tested.
• Passive seismic surveys were conducted at the Las Cruces mine jointly with the INFACT project, and at the Kaiserstuhl site jointly with the HiTech AlkCarb project. Another passive seismic survey was conducted with INFACT at the Silver City site in Germany to explore the possibility of using noise from drilling as a seismic noise source.
• A preliminary business plan of the PACIFIC techniques was prepared.
From project start, PACIFIC has been very active both in communicating to target audiences, disseminating preliminary results and clustering/planning joint events with other projects, including: development of a detailed plan for dissemination and communication; creation of several communication channels and tools (website, flyer, roll-up banner, posters, social media accounts); presentation of PACIFIC activities at international meetings and trade shows.
At a townhall meeting during the workshop in the Marathon area in 12-14 June 2019, representatives of first-nation communities were shown the latest results of the passive seismic survey, as part of dissemination activities. The local TV media and two radio stations covered the workshop. A public lecture was held in November 2021 at UGA in Grenoble, France, in the framework of the end-of-project symposium. The workshop related to the Kallak experiment was held next to this event as well as a conference on challenges of resources in the energy transition targeted to the local community. PACIFIC also organised a Winter School on Sustainable Mineral Exploration together with the H2020 project INFACT in March 2020 in Spain.
To ensure the project success, a project management structure was set up and maintained, including collaborative tools, processes for management and quality assurance, and the establishment of decision-making bodies. Regular meetings were held and members of the Scientific Advisory Board were regularly consulted for advice.
PACIFIC contributed to achieving the expected impacts in the following ways:
• PACIFIC is developing a cutting-edge, cost-effective, environmentally viable technique. Through collaboration between academia and industry, PACIFIC has access to the latest research and industrial development in seismology. PACIFIC members UGA and SISP have licenced the initial codes that govern the application of the technique. Additional licenses will be established by UGA and DIAS on codes being developed for the two new techniques.
• PACIFIC demonstrated and tested its new techniques at the Marathon and Kallak pilot sites and at the Las Cruces (Spain) and Kaiserstuhl (Germany) sites. Additional tests of the use of trains as a source of seismic noise were conducted at a site near Dublin. The possibility of using noise from drilling as a seismic noise source was explored at the Silver City site in Germany.
• After the end of the project, these techniques will be made available to the mineral exploration industry which will employ them to search for new deposits in Europe. The PACIFIC techniques will be used to explore for and evaluate deeply buried deposits in a manner that is far less invasive and thus more acceptable to local communities than most alternative techniques. This will contribute to unlocking a greater volume of raw materials within the EU.
• Coordination of industrial initiatives and coordination of Member States and EU initiatives was achieved via efficient communication and cooperation within the PACIFIC consortium which includes members from 5 countries and from universities, government organisations and private industry. Links with other H2020 projects (INFACT and HiTech AlkCarb) led to joint field tests at La Cruces in Spain and Kaiserstuhl in Germany. PACIFIC and INFACT jointly organised a Winter School in Spain in March 2020. The PACIFIC consortium also collaborated with INFACT in the organisation of the on-line symposium “Can Mining Make the World a Greener Place”.
• PACIFIC have developed techniques to evaluate public perception of the minerals industry. These approaches will be used to inform exploration and mining companies on how best to communicate to national and local stakeholders, the media and with the general public.
PACIFIC - installation of the vertical array at Kallak site, Sweden, September 2021
PACIFIC - Installation of the surface array at Kallak site, Sweden, September 2021
PACIFIC - Node retrieval after test at Marathon site, Canada, 2019