Numerical model aids in gold hunt 

Apr 25, 2014 by Kerry Faulkner
Dr Schaubs says Alkane Resources wanted to maximise use of its data to increase its efficiency in finding gold but didn’t necessarily have the skills to do that in-house. Credit: Graela

A local mining company has begun gold production in New South Wales as a part of a $166 million project boosted by advanced numerical modelling by CSIRO scientists to increase gold-finding efficiency.

Alkane Resources' Tomingley gold mine southwest of Dubbo was officially launched by New South Wales Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts in March.

The mine was launched with an expected cash flow of around $20-$25 million based on an average yearly production of up to 60,000 ounces of gold.

West Australian CSIRO scientists collaborated with the company before production began in February, using numerical modelling to provide important information about Tomingley's three gold deposits.

CSIRO Earth Science and Resources Engineering team leader Peter Schaubs says numerical modelling uses computer programs to simulate processes that are difficult to reproduce with physical experiments.

"If for example we see there's mineralisation in a particular orientation and it occurs along faults and we can see that faults have moved in a certain direction," he says.

"[Then] we can essentially squash the model so that it deforms to create that movement on the fault and then test to see if the hypotheses are correct.

"Geologists can then test that with a few selected drill holes as opposed to other methods like pattern drilling which is a less efficient method and more expensive.

"The ultimate aim is to predict mineralisation that geologists haven't yet found."

CSIRO's collaboration with Alkane Resources is part of its SME Engagement Centre's Connect Researchers in Business project.

Dr Schaubs says Alkane Resources wanted to maximise use of its data to increase its efficiency in finding but didn't necessarily have the skills to do that in-house.

Previously the company's digital data sat in a variety of different software platforms, he says.

The information included geological data about faults, known deposits and the orientation of rock in addition to geophysical data gleaned from drill holes and samples taken for assay analysis.

Dr Schaubs describes it as a three phase procedure; the first is a 'visual inspection' generating ideas about why mineralisation exists where it does.

The second phase gives the information a numerical value and the third uses all the data to test hypotheses and simulate where new deposits could be located.

"It is about testing the geologists' hypotheses about how the mineralisation got where it is using a simulation, as opposed to just putting their foot and nose to the ground, although they still have to do that," Dr Schaubs says.

Explore further: Hidden ants reveal gold better than top-dwelling termites

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving the hunt for gold

Dec 05, 2013

A geologist is using conditional probability principles to improve the design of nuggetty gold mines.

Mineral targeting made easy with database

Mar 05, 2014

Finding ways to target mineral deposits in remote and deeply covered areas, such as in WA's often thick regolith cover, has been a major motivating factor in collaborative research between Australian and ...

Recommended for you

Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

8 hours ago

The 2004 tsunami led to greater global cooperation and improved techniques for detecting waves that could reach faraway shores, even though scientists still cannot predict when an earthquake will strike.

Trade winds ventilate the tropical oceans

9 hours ago

Long-term observations indicate that the oxygen minimum zones in the tropical oceans have expanded in recent decades. The reason is still unknown. Now scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.