Innovative Exploration

Delivering a new exploration toolbox

After 30 years building a reputation as a dependable service provider that operated on a regional basis, IOS Services Géoscientifiques decided to pursue a bold new mission. While IOS still offers regular services such as sampling and drill supervision at regional scale, it now offers exclusive technology that gravitates around automated mineralogy. The logic is that the mining industry is moving from chemistry to mineralogy in terms of exploration techniques. The company’s president Réjean Girard elaborated: “Aside of gold, mines do not produce metal, they produce mineral concentrates. Switching from assays to mineral abundance requires access to complicated and expensive technologies, so we redeveloped these on our proprietary platform making them five times faster than MLA and QEMSCAN and delivering hard chemical data on minerals, not only proxies.”

Such performance enabled the development of a variety of applications from automated petrography, alteration mapping, to metallurgy and environment assessment. Girard highlighted that IOS’s greatest success has been in automating detrital mineral sorting for drift exploration purposes. The fusion of geological experience, artificial intelligence and basic machine engineering leads to cost reductions, better detection limits and more useful data. “Most companies use AI for the purpose of targeting, to process data and find patterns to pinpoint towards the right deposit. We use it to solve daily issues mainly for image analysis and pattern recognition in a similar way to Google Images,” Girard stated.

“How we innovate to reduce energy consumption is the primary challenge of most gold producers in Québec. Therefore, they are interested in finding new comminution technologies to reduce the ore size while using the minimal quantity of energy. When you reach the critical and strategic minerals, that involves a lot of hydrometallurgy processes and there is the question of social acceptability on the process because you are working with chemical reagents.”

Gianni Bartolacci, Director Business Development, Corem

In illustrating its application Girard explained that IOS spreads a mineral concentrate on a holder, puts it under a motorized petrographic microscope and within minutes, develops a picture of every gold grain. This process used to be done manually and workers would spend an entire day searching for gold grains. Now, the machine takes a mosaic of pictures, detects automatically the gold-looking grains, applies an AI algorithm, calculates the probability of it being a gold grain, and obtains the stage coordinate. IOS is able to execute this process in five minutes instead of an hour, and they do it free of errors.

At Géophysique TMC, its role is to provide geophysical ground data collection through surveys. The company uses various types of instruments, depending on the type of mineralization, geology and the depth each client requires. The surveys they conduct include magnetic surveys, electromagnetic surveys, induced polarization (IP), gravimetry, magnetotellurics, surface and borehole TDEMs. The newest geophysical method they offer is called CSAMT (Controlled-source Audio-frequency Magnetotellurics). TMC’s co-owner Gabriel McCrory noted that the high demand in Mexico and the US encouraged them to add this survey to its services in Ontario, Québec and Newfoundland, so they have acquired a new system for Canada.

When asked about the most common geophysical techniques being used in Québec today, McCrory explained: “In the Abitibi gold belt you see a lot of induced polarization (IP). This is a low cost and quick method that allows you to collect data quickly and get valuable drilling targets. There are many swamps and waterways in Québec, so the geologists do not always see the rocks or outcrops. As a result, they use induced polarization surveys to help in their exploration program.”

With other techniques like IP, TMC has been asking for deeper penetration configurations and hoping to get more into 3D IP. This technique enables them to not only collect data line per line, but also in between the lines, so they can have a cloud of reading points. This data is very precise and there is no interpolation.

The other method that is commonly used is electromagnetics, either from surface or within boreholes. “Demand for EM has been slower over the last few years, but this year it has been booming with a lot of surface and borehole EM work,” McCrory explained.

Vision 4K, a partner of Géophysique TMC, started as an aerial video company and grew into providing specialized UAV-based geophysical surveys and aerial imagery for the mining industry. After seeing that existing UAV MAG surveys did not harness the full potential of drone technology, the company concluded that resulting data could be greatly improved by flying closer to the ground and maintaining centimetric accuracy on the vertical and horizontal planes. The development of a fully autonomous obstacle avoidance system allowed the company to achieve its first objective by maintaining lower flight altitudes while staying clear of trees in the flight path. The addition of Real Time Kinematics (RTK-GPS) navigation further improved positioning of the sensor and removed the need for tie-lines and most levelling processing.

Vision 4K’s impact was felt in a big way at AMEX’s Perron property in 2019. “This project gave Vision 4K great publicity because AMEX had, and continues to have, very good drilling results based partially on this extraordinary dataset. A new mineralization zone has even been discovered from this magnetic survey,” said Pierre-Olivier Dostie, project manager at Vision 4K.

Image courtesy of AMQ