Abstract

Commencing in 1988 and continuing for 5 years, Lithoprobe acquired a series of high-resolution seismic experiments within and near base-metal mining camps in Canada, including the Abitibi subprovince of Quebec and Ontario, the world-class Sudbury Ni–Cu mining district, the Buchans mine in Newfoundland, and the Thompson Ni belt in Manitoba. This work, undertaken in close cooperation with the Geological Survey of Canada and major Canadian mining companies, stimulated an intensive and broadened series of followup studies with the common objective of assessing potential applications of multichannel seismic (MCS) imaging for deep mineral exploration and mine development. This research was motivated by a widely recognized disparity between the depths from which ores can be profitably mined (up to 2 km or more) and the resolving depths (typically <500 m) of commonly used geophysical methods for mineral exploration. Initial rock-property studies established that the expected contrast in acoustic impedance between ores and host rocks should be sufficient to generate observable reflections and (or) scattered waves. For an ore deposit to be directly detectable with MCS, however, it is also necessary for it to meet geometrical criteria including a minimum thickness of 1/8 wavelenth (typically ∼5 m) and a lateral extent similar to the Fresnel radius (typically ∼100 m). Both Lithoprobe and followup seismic studies, calibrated with borehole data, reveal that lithologic contacts that are characterized by large impedance contrast and significant lateral continuity, such as igneous intrusive contacts between mafic and felsic rocks, are the most likely features to be imaged with the MCS techniques. In some camps such as Buchans, however, faults and shear zones are better imaged than lithologic contacts. In either case, these studies show that well-designed and carefully processed seismic profiles can provide a valuable geophysical tool for interpreting the stratigraphic and structural framework of mineral systems and, more rarely, direct-detection capabilities for deep ore deposits.

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