World-first technologies developed by the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC) are being touted as a way to help reverse the decline in Australian mineral discoveries.
The technologies were successfully trialled in the recently completed Mineral Systems Drilling Program (MSDP) in South Australia’s northern Eyre Peninsula.
“DET CRC’s focus was to trial its new technologies in a real-world drilling program in order to speed their transition from the lab to commercial products,” chief executive officer Professor Richard Hillis said.
“Australia’s share of mineral exploration expenditure has halved from approximately one quarter to one eighth of the world’s total in the last 25 years.
“The decline in exploration expenditure has paralleled the decline in the discovery of major new mineral deposits in Australia.”
Prof Hillis said relatively easy-to-find mineral deposits with a surface expression had largely been discovered.
“New mineral exploration provinces must be found hidden beneath barren cover rocks, such as those covering hidden deposits in the Gawler Craton,” he said.
“The new technologies we successfully tested will enable the industry to search more efficiently and effectively beneath barren cover.”
The technologies trialled included;
Wireless Sub – monitors drilling parameters, such as the downward force on the drill bit, enabling them to be analysed at the drill site and remotely in order to optimise drilling performance and maximise productivity,
Fluid management system – provides real-time information on the chemistry of the drilling fluids and helps keep them in the optimal condition for efficient drilling,
AutoSonde with gamma sensor –deployed into the hole by the driller, the AutoSonde analyses the rocks intersected as the drill rods are pulled out,
AutoShuttle – deployed downhole by the driller in a similar way to the AutoSonde and acquires data while drilling is progressing. It is ‘shuttled’ to and from the surface (with its recorded data) every time the core barrel is retrieved.
Lab-at-Rig – provides near real-time XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence ) geochemistry and XRD (X-Ray Diffraction) mineralogy on drill cuttings, allowing greater confidence in assessing the prospectivity of the drill core.
The technology would allow geologists and managers anywhere from the rig-site to head office to access to real-time data.
Drill holes can be analysed by experts remotely and where encouraging results are encountered, follow-up holes drilled immediately, without the great cost of demobilising drill rigs and crews, waiting months for analyses, then remobilising back to remote locations.
The MSDP was a collaboration between DET CRC; Geological Survey of South Australia; mineral explorers Minotaur Exploration and Kingston Resources; services companies Boart Longyear, Imdex, Globaltech, Olympus, Epslog and Bureau Veritas; and researchers from CSIRO and Adelaide and Curtin Universities.
It saw 14 holes and almost 8 km of drilling over nine months, testing DET CRC’s technologies and uncovering geological information on the eastern Gawler Craton Olympic Copper-Gold Province.
A video series on DET CRC’s technology deployment during the MSDP can be viewed at www.youtube.com/detcrctv
More information at www.detcrc.com.au