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Exploration 

 
Author: Jack Caldwell

Summary

This review takes a look at different aspects of mineral exploration. Two examples of a Work Breakdown Structures as applied to exploration are given. Other topics covered include exploration software, health and safety, and codes of practice. Several worldwide consulting companies and law firms providing services to the exploration industry are also given.

INTRODUCTION

Typical exploration camp (Photo: Wilderness Helicopters) All mines start with exploration. No two exploration programs are alike. Here I provide a brief overview of web resources you may find useful and/or interesting. If you can add to this store of information, please let me know so we can share your insight and information with the greater community.

PUBLICATIONS

The InfoMine library is full of publications on Exploration. Surely there is something there relevant to your interest. One such paper is Worldwide Exploration by John Chadwick of International Mining. Also see his paper with the irresistible title New Spanish Conquests-yes it is about exploration. The paper with the best title, in my humble opinion, though is Turkish Delight-yes it too is about exploration.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

This review is not for "continuing education". If you seek education, I can do no better than recommend the EduMine course "Exploration and Mining Geology 3 - Surface Geologic Data." I avoid replicating information in the EduMine course. This review is my perspective; I write about what interests me, what has comes to my attention, and where I think I may add value. If you have other information, perspective, or companies that I do not mention, please bring them to my attention so I may add your ideas and information to revisions of this document.

WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE (WBS)

In the InfoMine database are a large number of consultants who list exploration as one of the service they provide. I found no commonality in the specifics of what they do. Thus I compile a list of specific activities that appear to constitute exploration as a consulting service. You will of course have to tailor the list to your exploration activities. For example one reader of this review suggests the activity breakdown list of Table 2 in lieu of what I put in Table 1.


TABLE 1: EXPLORATION WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE

  1. Exploration Project Management
    1. Project Conception & Planning
    2. Budget
    3. Schedule
    4. Finance
    5. Legal
    6. Community Relations
    7. Human Resources
    8. Health and Safety
  2. Geology
    1. Literature Searches
    2. Regional Geology
    3. Local Geology
    4. Mineralogy/Petrology
    5. Stratigraphy/Sedimentology
    6. Geologic Hazards
  3. Reserve Estimation
    1. Country and regional mineral potential reports
    2. Resource and reserve estimation and audits
    3. Mineral property appraisals, evaluations and due diligence reviews
    4. Reserve Calculations
    5. Independent project reviews and audits for loan funding and Stock Exchange listings
  4. Camp Construction & Operation
    1. Design
    2. Procurement
    3. Installation/Construction
    4. Manage/operate
    5. Decommission
  5. Field Investigations
    1. Surveying
    2. Geochemistry soil, silt, rocks
    3. Trench drilling and blasting
    4. GPS
    5. Geophysical Investigations
    6. Ground Penetrating Radar
    7. Magnetic
    8. Gravity
    9. Electro-magnetic
    10. Radiometry
    11. IP/Resistivity
    12. Surface Geologic Mapping
    13. Underground Geologic Mapping
    14. Soil and Stream Sediment Sampling Programs
    15. Bulk Sampling Programs
  6. Geologic Data Compilation and Database Management
    1. Development and implementation of GIS integrated database for land management
    2. Geologic Drafting and Illustrating
  7. Due diligence and technical audits
  8. Staking and Claims
    1. Mineral tenure control and maintenance of mineral rights including the filling of claim
  9. Legal & Regulatory
    1. Environmental impact studies and environmental permitting for exploration and mining
    2. Mine Permitting and Planning
    3. Preparation of Mine Plans
    4. State Mine Permit Applications
    5. Site Maps
    6. Reclamation Plans
    7. Sediment and Erosion Control
    8. Annual Reclamation Reports
    9. Local Zoning Issues Environmental Services
    10. Environmental Permitting
    11. NPDES Stormwater Permits and Compliance
    12. Pit Discharge Sampling Analysis
    13. Wetlands Delineation
    14. Underground Storage Tanks
    15. Delineation and Remediation of Contaminated Soils and Groundwater
    16. Phase I, II, and III Environmental Site Assessments
  10. Exploration and Subsurface Sampling
    1. Drilling and Subsurface Sampling
    2. Auger Drilling
    3. Core Drilling
    4. Specialized Drilling
    5. Geophysical Studies
    6. Test Pits
    7. Laboratory Analysis
    8. Market Analysis
    9. Geological Studies
    10. Deposit Delineation
    11. Petrographic Analysis
    12. Groundwater Studies
    13. Surface and Subsurface Maps
  11. Other Services
    1. Expert Testimony for Legal Issues such as condemnations or royalty disputes
    2. Acquisition Due Diligence


TABLE 2: ALTERNATIVE WBS FOR EXPLORATION GEOLOGY STUDIES

4.1 Preliminary Studies:

  • Literature Search
  • Evaluating Geologic Data
  • Reconnaissance Project Designing (including Methods Selection; Logistics planning; Airborne and Satellite Imagery Analysis)

4.2 Reconnaissance:

  • Traversing
  • Sampling
  • Data collection

4.3 Exploration:

  • Geological Mapping and Surveying
  • Planning and Coordinating Geophysical work (Ground and Airborne Geophysics): Method Selection; Sampling and Orientation; Survey control; Data acquiring; Analysis and Geologic Evaluation of Data; Target Selection
  • Geophysical Methods:
    • Magnetic
    • Gravimetric
    • Electro-magnetic
    • Radiometric
    • IR/Resistivity
    • Audio Frequency Magnetic
    • Ground Penetrating Radar
    • Nuclear Activation
    • Seismic
  • Geochemical prospecting (Method Selection - Rock, Soil, Stream Sediment Sampling ; Sampling Program Coordinating; Sample analysis; Statistical Treatment and Geologic Evaluation of Data; Target Investigation; Interpretation)
  • Geobotanical prospecting (Method Selection; Sampling Program Coordinating; Sample analysis; Statistical Treatment and Geologic Evaluation of Data; Interpretation)
  • Trenching and sampling
  • Drilling program (Method selection - Auger, Core and Specialized; Drill-Hole Patterns and Sequences; Logging of Data; Maps, Sections and Profiles; Comprehensive Reports)
  • Mineralogical, petrologic, ore studies
  • Sampling and Mapping of Mine Workings
  • Bulk sampling
  • Grade and Tonnage Resource Estimations
  • Geologic Data Compilation and Database Management
    • Development and implementation of GIS integrated database for land management
    • Geologic Drafting and Illustrating
  • Technical reports

4.4 Examination and Evaluation of Prospects and Mines

  • Mineral Property Reports including:
    • Country and regional mineral potential reports
    • Resource and reserve estimation and audits
    • Mineral property appraisals, evaluations and due diligence reviews
    • Reserve Calculations
    • Independent project reviews

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CONSULTANTS

Here are extracts from the websites of some of the many consultants who provide services to the exploration sector of the mining market. I select the text on the basis that it opens a window on to the activities and attitudes that make or break a successful exploration program.

ARGENTINA

Rojas & Associates: We have planned and conducted prospecting, drilling and other advanced exploration projects, providing the required human resources and equipment.

AUSTRALIA

White Geoservices Pty Ltd :Provides contract/consulting geological services to the minerals exploration and mining industry, with emphasis on project management.

Terralogic Corporation: If you want to plan, discuss or get an experienced opinion of your uranium exploration program please contact me. While I no longer acquire field data, (leaving that to fitter explorers), I am available to travel to explorations sites, direct radiation acquisition programs and most certainly interpret the data.

BELGIUM

G.F. Consult with Guy Franceshi: Mineral exploration and evaluation of base- and precious metals, gemstones and industrial minerals; selection and identification of exploration and investment projects; planning and implementation of exploration programs, data interpretation and resource assessment.

BRAZIL

NMV: Consulting services to the exploration and mining industry; Assistance with the identification of business opportunities and implementation of exploration projects; Project management and organization and execution of mineral exploration for a variety of commodities and ranging from grassroots exploration to detailed prospect evaluation.

CANADA

Duncan Bain: A n experienced Exploration and Mining Geologist specializing in base and precious metal mineral deposits, familiar with the requirements of National Instrument 43-101, and meets the requirements of a 'Qualified Person' (QP) as outlined in that document.

Equity Engineering, in spite of its name, boasts excellence in exploration since 1987. They write: "Henry Awmack and David Caulfield recognized the need for a geological consulting firm in Western Canada which could provide a complete range of mineral exploration services for junior exploration companies. They envisioned a company which could undertake entire exploration programs in remote areas. This company would provide not only top-notch geological expertise but the camps, equipment and supporting personnel necessary to efficiently run an entire exploration program."

Here are some of their staff in the field.

Photo: Equity Engineering Ltd. Photo: Equity Engineering Ltd. Photo: Equity Engineering Ltd.

Brian Cole P.Geo (Ont): A Canadian Mineral Exploration Geologist with over 26 years Domestic & International Experience in Gold, PGM, & Base Metals. Direct Hands-On Experience with Several Multimillion oz Gold Deposits throughout the World:

Frank Renaudat: Camp construction; Geochemistry soil, silt, rocks; Trench drilling and blasting; GPS usage 10 years; Experienced in heavy equipment operation;Staking in 5 Canadian provinces; Blasting License Single Fuse (BC 1982).

GeoVector Management Inc: Will generate quality targets for exploration and mining companies to pursue; will carry out programs from prospecting, mapping, geophysical and geochemical surveying to drilling; will ensure your project has the right combination of exploration, geotechnical, resource estimating, metallurgical, engineering, environmental, community and aboriginal impact assessments done to carry out advanced economic analysis.

G.N. Lustig Consulting Ltd. provides professional geoscience consulting to the mineral exploration industry

Hayles GeoSciences Surveys: An amusing site with a little guy walking across the screen. I was visitor 560 to the site so go and help his numbers climb. Appears to provide mainly surface surveys boreholes surveys, airborne geophysics, and data plotting services.

OREQUEST Consultants Ltd.: Expertise includes implementation and management of all aspects of exploration programs including research, property acquisition, geological mapping, geochemical sampling, trenching, surveying, geophysical surveys, diamond drilling reserve definition and underground development.

Quantec Geocience Ltd. provides geophysical services to the mining industry with a focus on data acquisition, interpretation and survey execution. With nearly twenty years of operations and 2000 projects completed globally, Quantec is an established leader in providing exploration solutions. They also have offices in Australia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Botswana, and USA.

ResourceEye Services Inc. is run by Tracey Tanaka who as CEO and senior project manager has over ten years in environmental and geologic services to the resource sector.

SabreX Contracting Ltd. Here is an excerpt of what the owner/operator, Peter Bernier, says on his company's website:

My background includes twenty-five years of experience with mineral exploration, primarily involving grass roots mineral exploration services. Further, with a broad logging background, I have attained the knowledge of the Forest Practices Code making SabreX Contracting fully aware of the eco system and the necessities of maintaining a pristine and unspoiled natural environment.

CHILE

Vitex: Mr. Viteri, a geologist graduated from the "Universidad de Chile", has an extensive experience in mineral exploration in various countries, and has participated in the discovery of several deposits.

Exploraberg says that their "mission is to explore, for you to transform key observations into profitable mine resources".

FRANCE

Alain Marot: Program design, management and implementation. Exploration of precious and base metals mineralization, from geological appraisal, area selection to reconnaissance programs to resource evaluation.

GERMANY

Wolfgang Hampel: Here's what he says: "I work both independently or as a member of a project team. I have a valid driving license, both national and international and I am prepared to work in almost any part of the world."

SWEDEN

CM Tracing: Mineral Exploration Consultant in Quaternary Geology & Geochemistry.

UK

Richard Parker Consulting Mining Geologist: Provides an independent consultancy service to the international minerals industry: Exploration project conception; Country and regional mineral potential reports; Exploration project management; Resource and reserve estimation and audits; Mineral property appraisals, evaluations and due diligence reviews;

USA

American Geological Services: Exploration and mining professionals with extensive experience on a diverse range of domestic and international projects.

Carolina Geological Services: The only full service consulting company dedicated to the Mining Industry in North Carolina. Emphasis on geological exploration, evaluation, mine permitting and planning, and environmental services.

Donald G. Strachan: Geologist Economic Geology, Mining, & Hydrogeology

Exploration Technology: Here's what they say about their work: "We spent more than a decade doing the 'dirty work' before getting into target generation, project management, exploration management, and GIS - database management."

George Hamilton: He provides "written reports with maps and other graphic material which are strictly private to the client and not available to the public."

Stone Products Consultants: Specializes in the technology of products produced from geologic materials. We offer services in three primary areas: Geologic Exploration, Petrographic Analyses, and Research and Development

SOFTWARE

Gemcom has software for drillhole logging (GEMS and Surpac), Borehole database and modeling (Minex), and feasibility study support (Whittle). Plus they provide several professional services, including training, project assistance, and custom programming.

Surpac Minex, a Gemcom company, provides a leading suite of mineral exploration software tools for exploration geologists. It incorporates borehole/drillhole and data interpretation, geology modeling and plotting tools, including Borehole logging / drillhole logging software tools.

Encom was founded in 1984 by David Pratt and Ian Grierson. During the early 1980s most exploration software required large and expensive mainframe computers to operate. Dave and Ian recognized that the evolving field of personal computing would have an increasing effect on the way people work. Their first goal for Encom was to develop a range of exploration software programs which would run on less expensive microcomputers. During the 1980s, the business expanded from this original focus to encompass geophysical consulting and data services. Encom is now a leading innovator and major supplier of specialist software, data and services to the petroleum and mineral exploration industries in Australia and many other parts of the world. Encom employs more than 40 people in offices in Sydney, Gosford, Melbourne, Perth and London.

Maxwell Geoservices I met in downtown Vancouver with Jennifer Thiebert and Richard Staker to learn more of their company. Richard tells me they have the software and the skills to manage the data from an exploration field program, to meet all the regulatory requirements, and to facilitate reserve estimation. His website details the computer codes that underlie their human skills. They are nice people, give them a call.

Geosoft has these codes:

  • Oasis montaj™ is powerful mapping and processing software for exploration and earth science investigations. > more
  • Geosoft's Target™ and Target for ArcGIS™ is essential exploration software that simplifies the processing and visualization of surface and drillhole data. > Target | Target for ArcGIS
  • acQuire provides a solution for the storage and management of technical exploration data. > more
  • Geosoft DAP is technology for delivering and accessing large geoscientific datasets via the Internet or Intranet. > more

HEALTH AND SAFETY

I plug 1984 Enterprises Inc. because I was honored on a sunny winter day to have lunch in a beautiful Vancouver restaurant overlooking the snow-capped mountains with the founder and owner of 1984 Enterprises Inc, Lise Tompson. Here is my description of what she and her staff do:

Imagine you are a small or mid-sized exploration and/or mining company. You do not have head-office health and safety staff. But you are running far-flung drilling and exploration programs. Contact Lise Tompson and she will set up and run the health and safety program for the exploration program. She will write your health and safety plan, get your drilling permits, train your staff in health and safety procedures, put professionals on site to help keep your staff safe and healthy, audit your operations, and keep your health and safety records.

On her website is a 22-page Manual that I recommend both to get a better idea of the scope of the company services and simply if you want an overview of what should be in an exploration program health and safety plan.

LAWYERS

McMillan Binch Mendelsohn provides legal services to the mineral exploration and mining industries, in Canada and internationally, including all stages of exploration, development and production (including the purchase and sale of mines and mineral product) and environmental issues (including mine closure). We advise on negotiations with First Nations, production financing, securities issues, bank financing, take-over bids, foreign investment, government relations and socio-economic issues.

Lawson Lundell LLP: Mining law has been a mainstay of Lawson Lundell's practice for nearly 100 years. Examples of our work include:

  • Exploration and joint venture agreements in all Provinces of Canada and the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the Yukon and throughout the world including Mexico, Suriname, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Turkey, Guinea, South Africa, China and elsewhere;
  • Mine permitting, the Environmental Assessment Act (British Columbia), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the securing of reclamation obligations;
  • Negotiating with Aboriginals for the basis of their participation in natural resource projects;

Parr Waddoups attorneys have extensive experience with the mining and natural resources industries, including: public land use and regulation such as ownership, access, usage rights, mining claims, mineral leases, permitting, patenting, operational agreements, acquisitions, divestitures, title and ownership analysis, boundary disputes, and regulatory compliance.

Parsons Behle & Latimer attorneys serve domestic and international mining companies in financing; mergers and acquisitions; joint ventures; exploration agreements; environmental permitting, compliance and diligence; title, mining claims, and other land use authorizations; royalty and refining agreements; complex joint operating agreements; water rights; electrical power supply and infrastructure; or appeals and litigation.

ASSOCIATIONS

"The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) is a national association representing the interests of the mineral exploration and development industry. The association, which includes individual and corporate members, was established in March 1932. Click here for an account of the first meeting.

The work of the association is guided by the following mission statement:

The PDAC exists to protect and promote the interests of the Canadian mineral exploration sector and to ensure a robust mining industry in Canada. The PDAC will encourage the highest standards of technical, environmental, safety and social practices in Canada and internationally."

On their website you will find past conference papers-but sadly not the 2006 proceedings. Also news and views relevant to Canadian exploration professionals. If you have money, take a look at the bookstore for a collection of relevant but expensive books.

A fun site is that of the PPDA (Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association), a lobby group representing the interests of mineral explorationists in the Porcupine District of Northeastern Ontario. They concern themselves with local, provincial and national issues affecting members.

See also The Association of Applied Geochemists for more on the role of geochemists in mining exploration.

CODES OF PRACTICE

The Alberta Code of Practice for Exploration Operations sets out what you need to do and how you need to do it if you are undertaking exploration in the province. Let me advance this proposition: this is as good a guide to good standard practice as any and is worthy of emulation regardless of where you are exploring.

But the prize for the best illustrated and most readable exploration Code of Practice I have ever seen comes from Mineral resources Tasmania. This is a must-see.

Victoria, Australia appears to be reviewing a code of practice. See their website for this promise plus lots of other potentially useful information on planning and executing an exploration program.

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