Thanks to technology’s ability to reveal systems under cover, the mining sector is moving into a “golden age” of discovery.
At the recent 2021 Prospectors and Developers Association Conference (PDAC) in Toronto, Canada, BHP chief technical officer Laura Tyler said companies could not use old exploration methods to find their next “golden” discovery.
New technologies are said to have the capability of making the earth transparent as much as 400m deep. At Oak Dam, BHP unearthed a mineral system under 800 metres of cover. In just 4 years they uncovered intercepts including 58 metres at 2.49 per cent copper and 1.2 grams per tonne of gold over wide areas
“For more than two centuries, we have hunted for deposits. But these are the smallest expression. Therefore the hardest to find of the mineral systems in which they manifest,” Tyler said.
“Taking a more holistic view of the systems themselves will allow us to create new insights.”
In WA, there have been advancements to use cosmic ray muon detectors, or underground sensors. They will enable the imaging of sulphide orebodies above them.
As well as Ideon Technologies, BHP has also collaborated with Sensore. This is to assist in its nickel discovery in the Yilgarn, Western Australia.
The company also announced plans to establish mineral exploration hub in Toronto. BHP struck an agreement with Midland Exploration to fund nickel exploration in northern Quebec, Canada. The agreement took place in August 2020 and will be for a minimum of 2 years.
“Nickel is fast becoming the ‘work horse’ of battery technology, playing an essential role in the world’s efforts to decarbonise,” Tyler said.
“Nickel production will have to increase nearly four-fold to power the next generation of battery technology and the forecast demand for electric and hybrid vehicles.”