Most of the world’s greatest mines started as a surface outcrop before turning into a big hole in the ground. Australia’s Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre, backed by miners like BHP Billiton, Barrick and Newcrest, is developing new techniques to find deposits visible only deep underground. Says Neil Williams, retired chief of government research agency Geoscience Australia: “There will be big deposits out under the Great Plains.”
(Image on the left)
(1) Manned aircraft with gravity and radioactivity sensors
map the terrain, looking for ore deposits.
(2) Gold in mountain streams points towards exposed veins in the hills above.
(3) Conventional drilling rigs are used to take core samples down to 200 metres, after which miners sink shafts to get the ore out.
(Image on the right)
(1) Unmanned drones gather data faster and cheaper. Supercomputers crunch through the data to find likely deposits below 300 metres.
(2) Coiled-tube drilling rig equipped with electronic probes searches for ore.
(3) Seismic trucks generate real-time readings to narrow down the search.