About Vale

8/10/2018

Canada: new instrument will help root out potential orebodies in Sudbury

This summer, pigs will fly in the skies over the Sudbury Basin in northern Ontario. These flying pigs are on a quest to root out copper-nickel orebodies. Helicopters carrying suspended surveying instruments, among them one that resembles a flying pig, will fly in a grid pattern until the end of September to identify potential areas for further exploration.

Resembling a flying pig, this survey instrument will help root out potential orebodies

“We’re using newer technologies to see if we can evaluate areas that hadn’t previously been explored, or had been explored with older technologies,” explained Jason Letto, geologist, who works out of our Sudbury site. Aerial surveys will allow exploration teams to cover far larger areas of terrain and with greater efficiency than they could on foot. The burning question, of course, is how do you identify a potential orebody from the air?

“The instruments we’re using either measure Earth’s magnetic field, including local geology variations of the rocks below, or create an electromagnetic field and track how it reacts when it encounters different types of conductive materials,” Jason explained.

While the equipment can’t determine with absolute precision what might be contained in the rocks below – there are a lot of different types of rocks out there – it can help our exploration teams narrow down where they should be looking.

The ultimate goal

Once the survey results have been gathered and analyzed by the geophysical team, geologists will examine the areas recommended for further study. Then, using their knowledge of the local and regional geology, they’ll identify sites for follow up to determine if they have an area of economic interest. The ultimate goal, of course, is to find an orebody worth mining which, even in an area as endowed with metals as the Sudbury Basin, is not an easy task. In low-budget years, the challenge becomes even greater as the scarcity of resources and labour can mean it takes years to complete surveys and identify drill targets.

“Our exploration team will often analyze hundreds or even thousands of areas in order to identify those that meet the threshold for further investigation,” said Jason. “With this year’s increased expenditure, the geophysical team is able to conduct these airborne surveys over larger areas, interpret the data, turn it over to geologists, and have enough budget to test with diamond drilling in a relatively short time frame.”

On the right track

With the closure of Stobie Mine last year as it reached the end of its natural life, it’s critical to spend the money to develop new mines and orebodies now while they can be incorporated into the existing operation. After all, once a new orebody has been identified, it can still take 10 to 20 years to bring a new mine into production.

“We’re definitely on the right track to add to existing resources and working toward the goal of finding new orebodies,” Jason added. “Sudbury has a successful mining history stretching over 100 years, but many areas of highly prospective geology remain underexplored. We’ve had a lot of success here and the scale of the Sudbury Basin means our chances of success are much greater.”

The increase in the exploration activity certainly represents a focus on resource discovery and more importantly, a confidence in our long-term success in the Sudbury Basin. When pigs fly, the future is limitless.


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Canada: new instrument will help root out potential orebodies in Sudbury