Abstract

Major mineral discoveries have declined in recent decades, and the natural resource industry is in the process of adapting and incorporating novel technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to help guide the next generation of exploration. One such development is an artificial intelligence architecture called VNet that uses deep learning and convolutional neural networks. This method is designed specifically for use with geoscience data and is suitable for a multitude of exploration applications. One such application is mineral prospectivity in which the machine is tasked with identifying the complex pattern between many layers of geoscience data and a particular commodity of interest, such as gold. The VNet algorithm is designed to recognize patterns at different spatial scales, which lends itself well to the mineral prospectivity problem of there often being local and regional trends that affect where mineralization occurs. We test this approach on an orogenic gold greenstone belt setting in the Canadian Arctic where the algorithm uses gold values from sparse drill holes for training purposes to predict gold mineralization elsewhere in the region. The prospectivity results highlight new target areas, and one such target was followed up with a direct-current induced polarization survey. A chargeability anomaly was discovered wherein the VNet had predicted gold mineralization, and subsequent drilling encountered a 6 g/t Au intercept within 10 m of drilling that averaged more than 1.0 g/t Au. Although most of the prospectivity targets generated from VNet were not drill tested, this first intercept helps validate the approach. We believe this method can help maximize the use of existing geoscience data for successful and efficient exploration programs in the future.

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