Thunder Bay

Mining conference to expand knowledge of new method of mineral exploration

Improvements in lithium batteries are one of the major reasons a new mineral exploration method could soon take off in northwestern Ontario.

Technique now possible due to improvements in lithium batteries which power monitoring equipment

A new method of mineral exploration will require less capital investment, as well as cost. The method measures seismic waves at the earth's surface to measure anomalies in rock properties.

Improvements in lithium batteries are one of the major reasons a new mineral exploration method could soon take off in northwestern Ontario.

Lakehead University will host PACIFIC (passive seismic techniques for envoirnmentally-friendly and cost-efficient mineral exploration), an international group of universities, government agencies and private companies which want to develop new exploration tools.

"It's getting harder and harder to find mines," said John McBride, a project geologist with Stillwater Canada, one of the companies involved in the project.

"The easy ones have already been found. So, we're looking deeper, we're looking in more difficult terrain, more difficult areas to access, and we need the right tools to be able to do that." 

McBride said the new technique uses recording equipment, which looks like a metal paint can, to record naturally occurring waves in the earth. Where an anomaly in the rock occurs, the wave is altered, which is picked up by the equipment.

The battery connection comes as a portable power supply and is required by this technique, and previously, batteries did not have the capability to provide consistent power for the month required to study the underground waves.

McBride said the new technique is cheaper, and also less invasive than blasting rock to find new minerals.

"The sensors go out in a grid, and they stay out there for 30 days, collecting signals. So, a wave passes through the earth, and these geophones pick it up, and the internal computer converts it to a frequency, and all this data gets shipped back to Europe."

"They put it through smart computers and do all of the algorithms for it, and it spits out a 3D model of wave velocities. So, we're looking at rock properties, but in 3D models now."

McBride said researchers are looking at the velocity of the waves which are in the ground, which determines what type of rock is there.

He said while the focus is looking at rock properties, other movements, such as nearby trains, or even waves from Lake Superior can be detected.

The geophones in this case are set up north of Marathon, Ont., where a platinum deposit has been found, and is currently under exploration.


Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.


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