Skip to main content

Mineral and exploration projects

A framework towards integrated quantitative earth models

Researchers: Seda Rouxel, Prof. Brett Harris

Application of new exploration geophysical technology for BHP Nickel West

Project investigates the seismic response of complex, sub-vertical mineralised bodies in an active mine environment. Very encouraging results obtained inspiring plans for wall-to-wall 3D seismic investigations.

Funded by: BHP

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Mr. Sasha Ziramov, Prof Andrej Bona, Mr. Dominic Howman, Lee Ignacio

The utilisation of drill-bit seismic source in cross-hole survey for hard rock mineral exploration

Project investigates cross-hole seismic imaging using drill bit as a source.

Funded by: Australian Society of Exploration Geophysics (ASEG) Student Grant

Researchers: Zixing Qin, Prof. Milovan Urosevic

Callawa investigations

Feasibility study on the applicability of new generation sensors and electro kinetic sources for full wavefield investigations of iron ore deposits.

Funded by: BHP

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Prof Andrej Bona, Dr. Konstantin Tertyshnikov, Sasha Ziramov, Murray Hehir, Dominic Howman

Distributed acoustic sensing for coal resource exploration and exploitation

The project aims to further develop and adapt novel sensing methodology to provide high-quality seismic images of coal seams in complex near-surface environment.

Poor quality seismic imaging due to complex near surface have prevented development of some of the highest quality coal reserves. The project strives to overcome this issue by introducing novel approach and utilising the latest methodology including Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) and Full Waveform Inversion (FWI).

Funded by: National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) with BHP and Terra15

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Prof. Andrej Bona, Sasha Ziramov, Murray Hehir, Dominic Howman

Elemental analysis via prompt gamma neutron activation for diamond drilling

Logging while drilling (LWD) is a technique that involves recording data from various sensors while the borehole is being drilled. Currently, elemental assay and petrophysical information is provided after the hole has been completed; often weeks afterwards. The key advantage in real time measurement is the possibility of making drilling decisions immediately when needed. Also, the borehole conditions during drilling are usually better compared to wireline logging; there is less drilling fluid invasion than during the logging.

Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA) offers a means to perform elemental analysis while drilling. In this project we are using computer simulations and laboratory measurements to calculate the sensitivity of the PGNAA technique to a range of elements relevant for mineral exploration. We currently operate a state-of-the-art electronic neutron generator which we use to expose rock samples to neutron radiation. The resulting gamma rays are detected and analysed to estimate elemental concentration. Computer simulations are used to model the performance of an LWD tool in different borehole environments and detector configurations.

Funded by: Australian Society of Exploration Geophysics (ASEG)

Researchers: Snezana Petrovic, Dr. Michael Carson and Dr. Hoang Nguyen

Experimental seismic survey at Symons Hill Project Fraser Range

The main goal of this study is to develop new seismic acquisition and processing methodologies that will enable efficient and inexpensive application of high-resolution 2D seismic survey for delineation of complex mineral bearing structures. The key new technology that may revolutionise seismic in mineral exploration is distributed acoustic sensors (DAS).

Funded by: Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) with MATSA Resources

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Prof. Andrej Bona, Sasha Ziramov, Lee Ignacio

Feasibility of 2D seismic for exploration of deep structures in the Albany Fraser Ranges

The activity is focused on assessing the applicability and effectiveness of 2D seismic technology for determining deep geological structures and potential of the method to image prospective nickel zones in the Albany Fraser Ranges. The geophysical seismic survey is undertaken on tenement E28/2177. Effectiveness of deployment of a wireless system in terms of time and labour will be also estimated. The seismic line is located over the main geological structures at the exploration tenement with the aim to obtain an image of major geological features that could be related to prospective mineralisation.

Funded by: IGO Limited

Researchers: Dr. Konstantin Tertyshnikov, Sofya Popik, Murray Hehir, Dominic Howman

MinEx CRC, Project 5: Seismic in the drilling workflow

The characterisation of subsurface properties with high spatial resolution using non-invasive methods is one of the “holy-grails” of mineral exploration. While currently used seismic methods provide the highest resolution among the remote sensing methods, they often considered expensive, lack direct interpretability and depth control. To fully utilise seismic measurements, we need to correlate them with borehole measurements.

In this project we aim to reduce the cost and logistic difficulties associated with borehole and surface seismic acquisition to the point where it is considered a routine mineral exploration and deposit definition technique. If we are successful, high spatial resolution 3D mapping of mineral deposits will be possible using many fewer drill holes than are currently required. We will develop methods for rapid data processing and updating of subsurface geological models for resource mapping, mine planning, and safe operation.

For more details, please see here

Funded by: MinEx CRC with BHP, Anglo American, HiSeis, MRIWA and Sercel, MATSA

Researchers: Prof. Andrej Bona, Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Dr. Konstantin Tertyshnikov, Prof. Roman Pevzner, Sasha Ziramov, Dr Alexey Yurikov, Murray Hehir, Dominic Howman

New technologies for old targets: iron ore rapid exploration

The project investigates the potential of novel sensors (DAS) for rapid exploration of shallow iron ore targets. The initial stage involves comparative studies of different fibre optic cables, buried and free. Promising results inspired further marine style operations.

Funded by: NA

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Murray Hehir, Dominic Howman

Petrophysics for mineral discovery during drilling

Funded by: NA

Researchers: Prof. Brett Harris, Dr. Victor Calo, Hoang Nguyen, Dr. Andrew Pethick, Dr. Michael Carson

Pilot project proposal: quantitative interpretation in hard rock seismic

In recent years, seismic exploration has been successfully adapted to mineral exploration. However, hard rock seismic exploration still needs to deal with a number of challenges including low S/N ratio, complex geological structures, high attenuation, strong ground roll and guided waves and often thick and variable cover. Additionally, a robust seismic interpretation requires a priori geological knowledge, well designed and processed seismic data as well as borehole control over the survey area.

Currently, hard rock seismic data interpretation is a qualitative exercise relying heavily on the experience and expertise of the interpreter. A quantitative interpretation (QI) utilising seismic attribute sections/cubes tied to physical properties down boreholes would be a significant step up in the level of information extracted from the seismic data.

The first stage to this project involves a trial of various AI inversion techniques on an arbitrary 2D line extracted from a 3D volume. If the results of this project are encouraging, then the second stage outlined below will involve running the inversion on the full 3D dataset.

Funded by: HiSeis

Researchers: Dr. Sinem Yavuz

Seismic methodologies for exploration of mineral resources in a hyper-saline environment

The project investigates the applicability of Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) for 3D investigations of potential gold bearing structures buried deep under hyper-saline lake, not accessible by conventional electronic equipment. Hyper-saline lakes of WA are known to host enormous mineral reserves. This project explores the potential for an effective and inexpensive exploration in these hostile environments.

Funded by: MRIWA with MATSA and HiSeis as the main sponsors. Additional sponsor from MinEx CRC.

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Prof. Andrej Bona, Mr. Sasha Ziramov, Mr. Lee Ignacio, Mr. Murray Hehir, Mr. Dominic Howman, Dr Alexey Yurikov


The Roy Hill project investigates the potential using different types of sources and receivers for iron ore exploration and resource imaging and characterisation. The sources include:

  • Standard active sources (Univib and weight drop)
  • Using drill bit from a pattern of 20 boreholes surrounded by 1000 receivers arranged in a square array.
  • Ambient noise

Apart from the imaging objectives, geotechnical issues are addressed through surface wave inversion using these three types of sources.

Funded by: BHP

Researchers: Prof. Milovan Urosevic, Dr. Konstantin Tertyshnikov, Lee Ignacio, Murray Hehir, Sasha Ziramov, Prof. Andrej Bona

Understanding seismic signature of gold deposits – an integration of laboratory data, rock physics analysis and seismic modelling

Over the last two decades, seismic reflection methods for mineral exploration in Australia have become more and more appealing and have been used in many areas to delineate hard rock environments. Indeed, seismic methods simultaneously join resolution and depth of investigation, which are attractive characteristics as mineral deposits are becoming deeper or are concealed under a thick cover of rocks and sediments. However, seismic interpretation of mineral deposits still remains largely speculative due to highly complex geological structures, scarcity of boreholes and laboratory data, and poor knowledge of the effect of the various features and processes in place (e.g. geochemical alterations, shearing, fractures developments and sealing, texture alteration) in the seismic response.

Gold deposits in particular are extremely challenging as the ore is in low concentration. They are however associated with faults and sheared zones, and may present characteristic alteration zones when related with particular host rocks. The goal of this study is thus to identify and quantify the effect that features such as mineralogy, texture, structure, anisotropy, etc. have on the seismic signal. To do so, 2 datasets of cores from 2 mines sites in Western Australia, Karari and Thunderbox mines operated by Saracen Gold Mines Pty Ltd, have been used. The workflow consists in characterizing in the laboratory about 100 core plugs (or a subset of for some characterization techniques) to obtain petrophysical, petrological and textural data. This extensive, multi-physics dataset is then interpreted using rock physics principles, which allows to relate rock properties to their seismic attributes in a way that is consistent with their geological environment. Last these data and rock physics relationships are used to constrain seismic forward modelling at the Thunderbox site and compared with recent 2D seismic surveys performed at that mine site.

Ultimately this work will improve our understanding of the seismic signature of gold deposits which are often found in overwhelmingly complex geological settings.

For more details, please see here

Funded by: Curtin Strategic Stipend Scholarship 2018 – 2021, CSIRO Deep Earth Imaging Platform 2018 – 2021

Industry Partners: Saracen Gold Mines Pty Ltd, Perth, Australia

Researchers: Andre Eduardo Calazans de Souza, Dr. Stephanie Vialle, Dr. Claudio Delle Piano (CSIRO), Dr. Joel Sarout (CSIRO), Prof. Andrej Bona