Mineral Exploration Applications for large geophysical programs such as the pan-Canadian EON-ROSE programThursday, November 21, 2019 - 12:00pm to 12:20pm Theatre One
Projected population pressures and societal demands for environmental sustainability, coupled with the need for carbon-neutral lifestyles to address climate change, require new and innovative strategies for mineral exploration. Projections for 2030 suggest that there will be 280 million electric cars which will require more cobalt, copper and lithium than has ever been produced. Demands for other elements will also continue to increase, e.g. rare earth elements to support technology and so-called green energy solutions as well as base and precious metals to supply societal and industrial needs. Most easily discovered deposits have already been exploited, meaning that we need to expand exploration into underexplored peripheral “brownfield” environments and also into the remote, geologically poorly understood, underexplored “greenfield” regions where entirely new mining districts remain to be discovered. The unpredictability and expense of greenfield exploration in remote regions requires the adoption of a “Mineral Systems” approach to mineral exploration
The Mineral Systems approach employs a more regional and lithospheric-scale approach than the classic ore deposit scale of previous mineral exploration practices, which has powerful potential applications for regional geophysical programs such as EON-ROSE (Earth-System Observing Network - Réseau d’Observation du Système terrestrE) and EarthScope. Inspired by EarthScope, EON-ROSE plans to install >1400 Earth System Observatories across the Canadian landmass to provide near-real time, open access data. These powered and telemetered stations will include co-located magnetometers GNSS receivers, broadband seismometers, infrasound and pressure sensors, weather packages and permafrost monitors. During the summer of 2019 the first “nested” array (similar in context to the EarthScope FlexArray programs) was deployed at Mt Meager (150 km north of Vancouver, BC) to assess the potential to produce geothermal energy and monitor volcanic activity. In the Canadian context, EON-ROSE is seeking collaboration from the mineral exploration community to justify the significant expense of such a national program, unlike the scientifically motivated NSF funding for EarthScope. EON-ROSE collaboration with industry will also provide valuable geoscientific results to de-risk mineral exploration programs in remote regions of Canada.
In the southwest US, spatial correlations have been demonstrated between giant/super-giant ore deposits and underlying lithospheric-scale structures, by superimposing maps of such mineral deposits on images from seismic tomography. In the Mineral Systems context, these underlying lithospheric-scale conduits through the sub-continental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) channel ore-forming fluids from the SCLM to form ore deposits within the overlying crust. Densified broadband and nodal seismometer, magnetometer, and gravity sensor deployments for EON-ROSE will outline images of these conductive channels in the SCLM across Canada; ultimately to achieve imaging comparable to that under the giant IOCG-U (iron oxide, copper, gold-uranium) Olympic Dam deposit in Australia. Government-industry-academic mineral exploration collaborations have been very successful in Australia, providing a return on investment ratio of 20:1 through new discoveries such as the Khamsin and Carrapateena copper-gold mines.