Editor’s note: The Geology and Mining series, edited by Dan Wood and Jeffrey Hedenquist, is designed to introduce early-career professionals and students to a variety of topics in mineral exploration, development, and mining, in order to provide insight into the many ways in which geoscientists contribute to the mineral industry.
For economic geologists, mineral exploration has a specific objective: the discovery of mineral concentrations that can be recovered economically to provide resources essential for society. This was achieved consistently until the first decade of the current century, but exploration since then has been wealth destructive. This outcome is a major issue for the mining industry unless reversed. We believe the technologies presently used to discover ore deposits will be as useful in making future discoveries as they were previously. However, we argue that a new approach is required in how exploration is conducted and in how these and emerging technologies are applied. The required changes in approach include improved business models for conducting exploration and acceptance that fewer deposits are likely to be discovered near the surface. We argue that discovery of deeper deposits will be facilitated if exploration teams (1) seek to identify subtle evidence of mineralized rock recognizable within 500 m of the surface, (2) conduct follow-up investigations with a clear understanding of the volumetric dimensions of the discovery target, and (3) drill boldly as a critical exploration tool. We propose that improving the way geoscientists think when exploring—being more predictive—is the immediate key to increasing the number of discoveries.