The role of geophysics in mineral exploration has expanded rapidly in recent decades, but in mining its importance is only just being recognized.
In resource definition and mine development, large budgets are committed on the basis of very sparse (and sometimes a total lack of) information. Erroneous models based on incomplete datasets are not infrequently the main reason of unexpected and sometimes costly production shortfalls, through lost ore or bad ground. When suitable physical contrasts exist, geophysics has the potential to reduce the risks in mine development decision‐making via timely and cost‐effective mapping of the orebody and its environment. Geophysics, appropriately applied, can underpin mine performance improvements in a number of levels, including cost per tonne, safety, and environmental impact.
Using the correct geophysical method is the first and most fundamental step. Magnetic techniques are able to define magnetized bodies with strong remnant signals. Magnetism is often used in combination with gravimetric methods to unravel ore deposits and its potential dimensions.
On the other hand, electrical and electromagnetic methods allow to characterize ore fields based on their conductivity. Typically, ERT and IP surveys are acquired simultaneously to derive more accurate interpretations from the resistivity and chargeability models.
GPR, albeit the lack of penetration, helps to find mineralized faults and fractures to delimit ore bodies. In combination with radiometry, element concentration maps of certain minerals can be obtained.
Geophysics cannot be regarded as the solely decision-making tool in mining operations. It should be viewed as a complementary element to deploy in the continuous effort to maximise day-to-day operations.