We constrain the depth and seismic structure of stiff sediment cover overlying a prospective basement terrane using a passive seismic technique which uses surface wave energy from microtremor (also known as ambient seismic energy or seismic noise). This may be applied to mineral exploration under cover to decrease the inherent ambiguity in modeling potential field data for exploration targeting. We use data from arrays of portable broadband seismometers, processed using both the multimode spatially averaged coherency (MMSPAC) method and the horizontal to vertical spectral ratio (HVSR) method, to produce profiles of seismic velocity structure along a 12-km transect. We have developed field protocols to ensure consistent acquisition of high-quality data in near-mine and remote locations and a variety of ground conditions. A wavefield approaching the theoretical ideal for MMSPAC processing is created by combining the energy content of an off-road vehicle, driven around the seismometer array, and ambient sources. We found that this combination results in significantly higher-quality MMSPAC waveforms in comparison with that obtained using ambient energy alone. Under ideal conditions, a theoretical maximum depth of investigation of 600 m can be achieved with a hexagonal sensor array with 50-m radius and MMSPAC and HVSR. The modeling procedure we employ is sensitive to layer thicknesses of ±5%. A high-velocity layer in the sediment package reduces the sensitivity to deeper structure. This can limit the modeling of underlying layers but may be addressed by detailed analysis of the HVSR peaks. Microtremor recordings including off-road vehicle noise, combined with the MMSPAC and HVSR processing techniques, may therefore be used to constrain sediment structure and depth to basement in a cost-effective and efficient method that could contribute greatly to future mineral exploration under cover.

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