In today’s fast paced world, we rely on technology more than ever. Raw minerals bring us the ingredients needed to produce things like smart phones, batteries and vehicles. In fact, lets face it, we need minerals to produce just about everything we rely on these days.
According to Natural Resources Canada, Mineral exploration is the search for materials in the earth’s crust, that appear in high enough concentrations and amounts to be extracted and processed for profit.
Like a scavenger hunt, the mineral exploration process can be very complex and unfortunately doesn’t always lead to finding the treasure. It is, though, of great benefit if the prospected area is near a producing or past producing mine, has great infrastructure (power, rail) and is easily accessible (by land or air) since these kinds of amenities are what prospectors and investors are looking for.
Exploration begins with prospectors looking for rocks and other signs of mineralization. They work with scientists and geoscientists looking for interesting mineral potential.
Once they believe mineralization may have been discovered, the areas of interest are staked by the exploration company.
Before beginning any work on the ground, it is essential to make an application for a permit to the government agencies in order to comply with regulations. Depending on the location of the claim, whether it is on public or private land, permits and agreements are required to ensure compliance.
Geophysical surveys are then collected and anomalies caused by minerals in the rock are sampled. Samples will be taken directly from the rock or soil of the anomalous sector in order to perform analysis to search for the presence of economic metals. This will be done by a Metallurgical testing facility and is referred to as “assaying”, measuring the metal contents. The drill location and results will help to determine whether follow up drilling will occur.
The discovery of a mineralized showing occurs when analysis confirms the presence of a mineral.
It is at this phase that more advanced exploration work begins. This creates the need for funding. Mineral Exploration can cost millions of dollars. Most companies raise this money by selling shares in equity markets.
Using maps and historical data, geophysics, ground truthing, geochemistry, and trenching, companies begin to identify drill targets. Drilling, metallurgical tests, environmental assessments and 3D models are used to identify continuity and consistency.
This will set the stage to determine the economic potential of the property. This step is the most expensive of all, and it will decide if the company goes ahead or if that it is not worthwhile to invest money in the project. This decision will lead to the sale of the property to another company or simply ignore the mineral claims previously staked
Finally, it is at this step that permits, leases and licenses are needed and that the project can be submitted to an environmental assessment with public authorities. A small quantity of mineral deposits discovered becomes exploited mines in the world. The prefeasibility and feasibility studies on the future exploitation can take up to 10-15 years for the mine to develop. Rarely the projects reach this course of development.