A University of South Australia researcher has developed a suite of geochemical tools to more accurately target valuable mineral deposits and save drilling companies millions of dollars in the process.
The tools use data collected from analysing drilling materials in new ways to help locate undiscovered precious metals buried by younger sediment and identify the right drill holes.
By mapping out where key chemical elements are found in greater concentrations, the researcher behind the project is creating geochemical algorithms that increase the chances of finding an ore deposit and decrease the cost of mineral exploration.
“The global demand for copper and gold is growing, but it is getting increasingly hard to find these metals as companies are forced to drill deeper and deeper,” said Caroline Tiddy, the scientist leading the study at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute. “Diamond drilling, for example, costs up to $400 a metre and it is not uncommon to drill to depths of 1-2 kilometres. That amounts to an $800,000 bill with no guarantee of success, so it limits the number of drill holes. To add to the challenge, ore deposits are tiny compared to the search space.”