Exploration is critical to secure the growth of a mining company
Developing, expanding, and securing the future of the mining company’s operations require continuous exploration for new ore deposits. Finland’s bedrock has an excellent ore potential and, with investments in exploration, this potential is being tapped in to meet the growing demand for minerals and metals with domestically and responsibly sourced raw materials.
Exploration refers to the geological, geophysical, and geochemical studies used to locate and define the size and quality of a mineral deposit. Exploration requires geological research to understand which parts of the bedrock have potential. During the exploration process, knowledge of the location and the nature of a potential discovery is gradually refined.
Exploration is a multi-stage process
The first step is to plan and select the study area based on the available information. The planning phase includes a review of existing geological data, studies of the characteristics of the area, utilizing the geological survey data of other operators, such as GTK, and a consideration of the geology and ore potential of the area in general.
If necessary, defining the area to be explored and, where appropriate, a declaration of reservation will be made. At the reservation stage, the company still has an imprecise picture of the area, so the reservation will cover a large area. The reserve defined in the Mining Act gives companies the right to carry out, among other things, geological mapping. The reservation also gives companies the right of priority to apply for a mineral exploration permit and thus to move on to actual targeted or objective mineral exploration work.
Initial exploration methods include geochemical sampling, boulder exploration and bedrock mapping, and drone geophysical surveys. The results of those surveys help the geologists to focus their efforts on smaller areas where the potential for ore deposits appears to be the strongest. This is why exploration permits are a lot smaller than the reservation.
If the area appears promising, the next step in the exploration is to gather further information to generate robust drilling targets. This process includes more detailed geochemical and geophysical surveys for which an exploration permit is necessary. Those surveys include low-impact exploration methods such as the base of till sampling and ground geophysics. Upon reception of the results of those detailed studies, geologists propose an interpretation of the possible size of the drilling target. Drilling targets are compared to each other and only the most promising targets will be tested by a small diamond drilling program. If the results of the target testing drilling program are good, the company will announce a discovery.
The final stage of the exploration depends on the results of the work carried out earlier. If the results are not promising enough, the project will be abandoned due to the lack of or insufficient ore potential in the area. If the results are promising, the exploration will continue with further diamond drilling to test the size and grade of the newly discovered mineral deposit. During the drilling project, the information on the deposit is continuously refined.
If the company applies for a mining permit, it will already have an accurate picture of the deposit. Therefore, the mining permit covers a smaller area than the exploration permit.
The purpose of mineral exploration is to locate a mineral deposit in the bedrock that can be exploited economically.
Technology improves the accuracy of ore exploration and reduces the need for costly drilling
Geological modelling, geochemical surveys and geophysical drone measurements are constantly improving tools. Those methods have a low environmental impact, their use at the early stage of the exploration process increases the success rate of the later phases of the mineral exploration process. Those constantly improving technologies also reduce the need for costly drilling. Indeed, drilling will only proceed once the geophysical and geochemical measurements obtained by several different methods indicate the strong likelihood of an ore deposit. Despite the technological possibilities, drilling is still the only way to obtain accurate information on the bedrock to discover an ore deposit.