Infographic: The Mineral Exploration Roadmap
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The Mineral Exploration Roadmap

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The Mineral Exploration Roadmap

Mineral Exploration Roadmap

There is nothing more exciting than making some type of discovery.

Discoveries can come in many forms – they can be physical, scientific, personal, or even philosophical in nature. But while there are different types of discoveries that can be made, perhaps the most tactile kind of discovery is in the field of mineral exploration.

The discovery of a mineral deposit can transform a piece of “moose pasture” into a new economic asset, and it may enable millions or billions of dollars worth of metals and minerals to be used for human purposes.

These minerals get used all around us – they go into our houses, cars, infrastructure, jewelry, electronics, and they can even be used to power the green revolution.

From Prospecting to Production

Making an economic mineral discovery is the goal of many teams around the world, but these efforts can also be extremely difficult, costly, and time-consuming, and most companies engaged in exploration end up walking away empty-handed.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Orix Geoscience and it shows the steps of mineral exploration, and how teams can maximize their odds of success by using data to add value throughout the process.

Steps of the Mineral Exploration Process

1. Exploration Strategy

Where do you choose to explore? There are two basic strategies:

(a) Working from the known
Deposits tend to form in clusters in prolific belts, and exploration occurs outward from known mineralization.

(b) Working from the unknown
If you review all available information, prospective areas with potential for discoveries can be identified.

2. Prospecting

In this stage, boots are now on the ground – and it’s time to explore the backwoods for showings. Prospectors will stake claims, map outcrops and showings, and search for indicator minerals.

The goal of the prospecting stage is to find the earliest piece of the exploration puzzle: the clue that there is something much bigger beneath.

3. Early-Stage Exploration

Congrats, you’ve found something interesting – and now it’s time to ramp up exploration efforts!

This is where the amount of data and sophistication picks up. In this stage, companies are using existing maps and historical data, geophysics, ground truthing, geochemistry, and trenching to try and identify drill targets.

4. The “Truth Machine”

Geologists don’t call the drill a “truth machine” for nothing.

If you’re target hits, you’re in business. If your target misses, it’s time to go back a step and find new ones.

5. Discovery

Eureka! You’ve found something. Now it’s time to see how far the mineralization goes!

Once you have enough information, you can get an official resource estimate. This data is another puzzle piece that will be crucial as you advance your discovery.

6. De-risking

Even at the best of times, mining can be expensive, risky, and tricky.

That’s why your investors and backers will want you to source even more data – it’ll allow you to see a clearer picture of the deposit, and help your team see how it could take shape as a mine.

At this stage, drilling, metallurgical tests, environmental assessments, 3d models, and mine designs are used to increase confidence in the project.

Data starts to get very granular. Your company may do a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) to assess the potential economic outcomes of a mine. Then after, they may conduct an in-depth Feasibility Study to help make a production decision.

Final Steps

By this point, you may have all the puzzle pieces – a clear vision of the deposit and its potential – to make a decision!

If the puzzle looks good, it’s time to make a production decision, construct the mine, and start commercial production. But the data doesn’t stop there – at these later stages, even more data gets created and it can help you make better decisions.

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Energy

Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

Wealthy countries consume large amounts of natural resources per capita, and the U.S. is no exception. See how much is used per person.

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Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and the United States is no exception.

According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.

Materials We Need to Build

Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.

As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.

Material/Fossil FuelPounds Per Person
Stone10,643
Natural Gas9,456
Sand, Gravel7,088
Petroleum Products 6,527
Coal 3,290
Cement724
Other Nonmetals569
Salt359
Iron Ore239
Phosphate Rock 166
Sulfur66
Potash49
Soda Ash36
Bauxite (Aluminum)24
Other Metals 21
Copper13
Lead11
Zinc6
Manganese4
Total 39,291

The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.

Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.

Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These rarer metals can make a big economic difference even when their uses are more concentrated and isolated—for example, palladium (primarily used in catalytic converters) costs $54 million per tonne.

Fuels Powering our Lives

Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2021

Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.

In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.

Reliance on Other Countries

Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.

In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.

However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact, and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.

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