Smart Exploration and European Association for Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE) will present  the Horizon 2020 Smart Exploration Project at MINEX Europe Mining and Exploration Forum taking place in Bulgaria on 25-27 June 2019.

The project will be presented by Marcin Loska, Chairman of the Board of Proxis – one of the key members of the project consortium of 27 partners from 11 countries and six exploration sites within Europe.

About the project

The geological evolution of Europe has resulted in generation of a variety of mineral resources. These materials are essential for the sustainable economic growth of the EU, for its continued technological development and innovation, as well as for maintaining and improving the quality of life.

Starting in the 1990’s, the systematic acquisition and storage of digital data and associated computer-generated 2D/3D models was arguably the most significant development in mineral exploration. The pre-existing datasets termed “legacy data” may have largely been abandoned because: they were considered to have lower intrinsic quality than observations or measurements made with more modern equipment; or the challenge and expense to recover (in some cases even locate!) and translate analogue or unreadable digital data in an obsolete storage medium was deemed too much trouble.

However, what is overlooked is that many of these large geophysical surveys cost millions of euros to acquire and for a variety of reasons – land disposition, development, etc. – cannot be reproduced or would cost a tremendous amount. In a brownfield or near-mine exploration scenario, operations and exploitation have depleted the ore-bodies and infrastructure would interfere with the acquisition of new data resulting in knowledge gaps.

In recognition of the value of legacy data, The Smart Exploration initiative answered the challenge offered by H2020 (SC5-13c-2016-2017) for ‘New solutions for sustainable production of raw materials – New sensitive exploration technologies’. The project has been assigned over €5.2 million and was created to address the challenges surrounding the exploration of mineral resources that are vital to the economy and technological advancement within the EU. The project officially started on 1 December 2017 and has a planned runtime of 36 months.  The Smart Exploration project identified exploration sites that possessed extensive legacy datasets to be re-examined in planning for new exploration programmes and generating new targets for detailed follow-up investigations. The legacy data not only offers an opportunity to reinterpret the original data but through integration with other available geoscientific information it can guide future exploration.

Notably, reprocessing and reworking legacy data for Neves-Corvo, Portugal (base metals), Ludvika Mines, Sweden (iron-oxide) and Gerolekas, Greece (bauxite) using modern algorithms and incorporating knowledge of the mineral deposits and the surrounding geology have provided valuable information about the geometry and potential extensions of the deposits. This knowledge will be used to optimise the planned geophysical surveys to identify targets for drill testing.  The main targets are highly challenging brownfield areas, but new innovative ideas will also be tested for greenfield exploration to increase the potential of finding new major deposits of relevance to the EU. That is why PROXIS is a partner in the project providing chromium (also associated with Cu-Au-Co-Ni-PGEs) deposits of Kosovo greenfield sites.

The project primarily focuses on developing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly tools and methods for geophysical exploration in highly challenging brownfield areas to meet the ever-increasing community (social acceptance) and environmental issues, as well as reduce the return time (from exploration to production).

At the same time, long-term greenfield exploration is essential and reducing exploration costs in these regions can have great consequences for development rates and a sustainable supply of raw materials at the same rate as whole world growth. Therefore, new innovative ideas will also be tested for greenfield exploration to increase the potential of finding new major deposits of relevance to the EU.

The aim is to not only generate new technological and methodological markets for the EU, but to create results that will also allow for improved exploration in the EU countries and beyond.