Mining activities and the number of exploration projects in Australia have been steadily increasing since 2017, and this has, subsequently, resulted in an increased demand for South African airborne geophysics technology provider Spectrem Air’s services, says Spectrem Air GM Louis Polomé.
“Spectrem Air is focused on international projects, especially in Australia, where exploration spend is steadily increasing. With an increase in workload from a range of potential clients, we are planning to remain in Australia until the end of this year or until the first quarter of 2019.”
Polomé explains that the company’s airborne geophysics offer fast decision-making from a reasonably affordable form of data acquisition, adding that the information is gathered in a completely nonintrusive manner, causing no disturbance to the area where the company operates.
Since November last year, Spectrem Air has been working primarily for Australian diversified mining and exploration company Independence Group NL (IGO) at its Nova nickel/copper/cobalt mine in Fraser Range, in Western Australia.
“The airborne geophysics technology has also been used for IGO’s exploration projects in the Northern Territory. The data generated by Spectrem Air has been valuable to IGO in generating a number of targets in those areas.”
Polomé notes that the company has also completed several projects with “great success” in Australia for mining companies such as Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti and BHP Billiton. The company has also worked for independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. These projects were started and completed from 2009 to 2010, as well as from 2012 to 2013.
Polomé says the main challenge for Spectrem Air in Australia is logistics, as it has to transport the aircraft to the country with all the equipment, and then find a local airport that has all the necessary support and maintenance infrastructure from where it can operate.
Although such facilities are not always easy to find in an area as uninhabited as Western Australia, Spectrem Air’s modernised aircraft is “perfectly suited for long ferry conditions”, he points out.
“The aircraft has a survey endurance flight time of five to six hours, depending on the terrain and weather conditions. This enables us to cover ground quickly, which makes Spectrem Air fairly unique.”
Environmental conditions in Australia make airborne geophysical exploration an easier alternative solution, as “surface cover can be very conductive and thick, making traditional ground geological or geophysical exploration or mapping difficult”, Polomé enthuses.
Polomé says Spectrem Air continuously advances the functionality of its state-of-the art technology by upgrading hardware and sensors, making it “a leading system” with regard to airborne geophysical surveys.
“Technological improvements have resulted in the airborne geophysics technology achieving increased depth of penetration of more than 800 m below surface, with greatly enhanced geological resolution and a high level of detail in the near-surface geology.”
He further explains that the unique mapping tool incorporated into the design of the technology and the power of the sensors make the airborne geophysics technology particularly suited to exploring and mapping of deep geology, which is typical of many difficult mining environments in Australia.
“While most mines seek to start their operations as shallow as possible, the information from the deeper regions to be mined can provide critical geological insight and allow for advanced planning regarding possible deep-mining developments in the future.”
Polomé concludes that the market response to the airborne geophysics technology has exceeded the company’s expectations and surveys conducted using the technology have produced results that have been valuable in terms of data quality, the resolution of geological features and the depth of the investigation.