Minerals exploration and analysis

Rapid, accurate sample analysis improves the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of minerals exploration and mining. Whether in an offline laboratory, in a real-time “down-hole” environment or in an inline production facility, Southern Innovation’s SITORO® digital pulse processing technology facilitates:

  • improved geological visibility (depth of penetration);
  • faster, more accurate analysis and
  • smaller, lighter equipment.

The use of radiation detection and measurement technologies for minerals analysis is widespread. SITORO enhances detector efficiency in these applications, which improves detection speed and accuracy and, importantly, enables the design and manufacture of smaller, lighter tools for analysis in a “down-hole” environment.

Existing minerals exploration and analysis techniques such as neutron-activated gamma logs and X-ray analysis of rock samples use radiation detection and measurement techniques to characterise elemental composition. These techniques have applications throughout the resources sector including in the oil, gas, nickel, lead, zinc, coal and iron-ore sectors.

Minerals exploration and analysis techniques can be broadly segmented into three distinct classes:

  1. borehole logging
  2. offline minerals analysis
  3. inline minerals analysis

Technology Papers:

Borehole logging

Geological structures and characteristics can be “mapped” down an oil well or exploration borehole using active or passive radiation detection and measurement techniques (nuclear logging). Active techniques employ a neutron or gamma source to stimulate gamma rays which, in turn, provide in­formation on the chemical composition, porosity and density of the surrounding rock formation. Conversely, passive techniques measure natural levels of gamma radiation.

Both active and passive logging tools provide valuable data to the oil and minerals exploration industries and are used widely. In particular, the oil well logging industry has been using these techniques for more than 30 years. Data on the porosity and density of rock formations – used to help detect the presence of geological reservoirs and their contents (oil, gas or water) – form one of the “standard” log suites in oil well logging. Moreover, given the vast depth of oil wells and the difficulty in recovering core samples, there are few alternate techniques, thus increasing the oil industry’s reliance on nuclear logging techniques.

Nuclear logging techniques have become more widespread in their application to minerals exploration and analysis outside the oil industry. Nuclear techniques facilitate rapid sampling as well as the sampling of a larger volume of ore due to the depth of penetration of neutrons and gamma rays. Industries within the resources sector where nuclear techniques have particular application include the iron, lead, zinc, nickel and coal industries.

Benefits of SITORO to borehole logging

Southern Innovation’s SITORO technology is able to operate at radiation count-rates that have not previously been possible; this generates time savings in logging both oil wells and other exploration drill-holes.

A further advantage to the SITORO is the ability to design smaller and lighter tools because the radiation source on a logging tool can be placed closer to the radiation detector; existing oil well logging tools can be in excess of 50ft long and very difficult to manoeuvre in a deep, narrow exploration or production hole.

SITORO also delivers better composition estimates (due to better spectral resolution) and improved statistics from gamma ray events which in turn can improve the accuracy of rock composition or fluid flow estimates.

Offline minerals analysis

The resources sector, whether in the exploration or production phase, uses offline minerals analysis extensively. Offline analysis, where samples are sent offsite to an analysis laboratory, is used throughout the exploration, mine planning and ore extraction process. Laboratory-based chemical analysis has traditionally dominated offline minerals analysis, however techniques based on radiation detection and measurement have become more widespread.

Offline, radiation-based minerals analysis is typically performed using scanning electron microscopes utilising X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology however, technology based on X-ray diffraction (XRD) is also be used.

Benefits of SITORO® to offline minerals analysis

By significantly improving detector efficiency, SITORO is able to facilitate faster, more accurate offline processing and analysis of minerals using XRF and XRD technologies.

Inline minerals analysis

Inline minerals analysis forms an integral component of many smelting, production or consumption processes. Inline analysis seeks to generate real-time information about the material that is being analysed. Applications for inline minerals analysis include:

  • identifying contaminant levels in bulk materials (eg sulphur levels in coal);
  • optimising mineral and ore blends prior to processing and
  • determining moisture levels.

In addition to XRF and XRD analysis technologies, inline minerals analysis utilises nuclear techniques that are not dissimilar to those employed in borehole logging. Prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA) uses the same gamma ray detection and analysis techniques to derive elemental composition data about the mineral or minerals that are the subject of analysis.

Benefits of SITORO® to inline minerals analysis

By significantly improving detector efficiency, SITORO is able to facilitate faster, more accurate inline minerals processing in XRF, XRD and PGNAA analysis technologies.