Pursuit of the unknown
All explorers start from a common fundamental purpose that drives them: the pursuit of the unknown. Whether climbing a mountain summit, curing a life-threatening disease, or building a rocket to Mars, as long as there is a frontier that holds a mystery there will be humans seeking it. For the geologist, their mission is to uncover the story of Earth’s formative history hidden in rocks that are billions of years old.
Throughout human civilization, we’ve explored the Earth’s geology and found ways to utilize mineral resources to grow, advance, and improve our societies. Today’s modern age is no exception. In fact, many of the cutting-edge technologies we depend on, from IT to medicine to clean energy, require minerals that are concealed in the rocky surface of our planet. By exploring for these critical minerals, geologists can uncover deposits of valuable materials that help people meet their daily needs, supply our most innovative businesses, and power a globalized, sustainable economy into the future.
Starting FROM Solid Ground
Today’s modern exploration techniques have certainly grown in sophistication from historical practices, and geologists have greatly benefited from incorporating technological advancements in equipment. Instruments like the magnetometer allow geologists to use geophysical survey data to identify mineralization in deeper and more covered structures. However, these modern techniques can sometimes lead to an overly strong reliance on geophysics data in which findings can be obscured due to false-positive anomalies.
Given the challenges of making a discovery deep below the visible surface, successful exploration today depends on developing a comprehensive understanding of a target area’s geology, structure, and geodynamics from scientific observations rather than just instrumental data. This is where the fundamentals of field geology as key to effective grassroots exploration.
Homing In On A Target
Grassroots exploration programs are the very first step in what is commonly called greenfield exploration. Greenfield exploration is the process of looking for mineral deposits in previously unexplored areas or in areas where they are not already known to exist. When a geologist has a conceptual idea about where a mineral deposit might be based on their preliminary research, the explorer will deploy a technical field team and resources to begin a grassroots exploration program.
The primary goal of a grassroots exploration program is essentially uncovering an initial set of clues, or “indicators,” that may predict the presence of an unknown mineral deposit. This process of targeting starts by gathering robust observational data using fundamental field geology techniques.
Step 1: Reconnaissance
Sometimes previous mapping or exploration efforts can provide a general idea as to where to begin targeting, but an objective approach is essential to adhering to the scientific method and avoiding common pitfalls such as misinterpreting findings from previous exploration efforts.
When first on the ground, the geologists perform regional reconnaissance mapping and sampling. During this phase, the mapping crews will systematically cover large areas of land to record observational data using traditional tools such a rock hammer, compass, hand lens, and notebook.
Step 2: DATA Compliation
To a geologist at an outcrop, this means blanketing the area with observational data in the form of notes, sketches, photos, maps, and measurements. A geologist must also collect extensive sample data from rocks, soils, water, and foliage.
After blanketing a region with comprehensive data, the geologists can begin to piece together general geological interpretations and observations. Once sample assay data starts coming back from the labs, the geologists can begin to identify anomalous geochemical signatures and can develop localized areas of interest (AOIs) for follow-up investigation.
Step 3: Interpretation
Once discrete localized AOIs are developed, the geologists will return and perform higher-density sampling in conjunction with higher-resolution, detailed mapping. Each step in the process builds on the previous to take small, deliberate, incremental steps forward without bypassing crucial detail.
In order to move a grassroots exploration program into the next phase, the data must be effectively managed, processed, analyzed, and interpreted to tell a coherent story. Data that is accurate, precise, and error-free ensures all of the insights from laborious field work can be assembled into a definitive, high-resolution picture.
This nuanced ability to use an objective, scientific approach to data collection in order to create a compelling narrative that illuminates the unknown is central to the field geologist’s mission of mineral discovery.
the Big Rock Approach
“Our geologists are encouraged to think independently and ‘outside-the-box’ to avoid overlooking mineralization indicators that may have been previously missed or misinterpreted.”