Canada supergroup developing Earth X-ray
To image critical mineral deposits deep beneath the surface
Last updated 11/30/2021 at 4:25pm
Taking inspiration from the x-ray and MRI technologies that allow medical doctors to see inside the human body, Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster has launched a project aimed at helping mineral exploration companies identify potential deposits of critical minerals beneath the Earth's surface.
A collaboration of more than 1,000 businesses, universities, government organizations, and nonprofits, the Digital Technology Supercluster is focused on accelerating the development and adoption of digital technologies that keep Canadians healthy, address climate change, and drive economic productivity.
Toward these higher goals, the Canadian technology supergroup has launched the Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project, which aims to deliver a new mineral discovery platform to the mining sector that lowers the economics of discovery and increases the sustainable production of minerals critical to the clean energy transition.
"As the world moves towards a low-carbon economy, global demand for critical minerals is increasing," said Canada Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry François-Philippe Champagne. "Through this innovative project, the Digital Technology Supercluster is supporting the development of a first-of-its-kind, environmentally responsible mining technology that will position Canada as a world leader in responsible mining."
This Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project is being spearheaded by Ideon Technologies Inc., a world pioneer in the application of cosmic-ray muon tomography.
Muons are subatomic particles similar to electrons, but 270 times heavier, that are created when cosmic rays collide with particles in Earth's atmosphere. While muons only exist for about 2.2 microseconds, they bombard the Earth's surface at nearly the speed of light. These subatomic particles are slowed as they encounter materials of different densities below the Earth's surface.
Ideon uses proprietary detectors, imaging systems, inversion technologies, and artificial intelligence to map the intensity of these muons underground and construct detailed 3D density profiles of subsurface anomalies
This innovative British Columbia-based company is working alongside organizations with a broad range of expertise – BHP, Dias Geophysical, Fireweed Zinc, Microsoft, Mitacs, and Simon Fraser University – to build, test, and deploy a new platform capable of constructing detailed 3D density profiles of subsurface anomalies such as mineral and metal deposits, air voids, caves, and other structures as far as a kilometer, or more than half a mile, below the surface.
"As co-innovators, we will deliver a solution to the global mining industry that will directly reduce the cost, time, risk, and environmental impact of finding new mineral and metal deposits, while dramatically increasing certainty and discovery rates in a sector that has been historically characterized by uncertainty," said Ideon Technologies CEO Gary Agnew.
Fireweed Zinc is excited about helping Ideon develop this cutting-edge mineral exploration technology and apply the platform to seeking new zinc-lead-silver deposits across its highly prospective but underexplored 948-square-kilometer (366 square miles) Macmillan Pass property in eastern Yukon
"This project has the potential to accelerate the transformation of modern mineral and metal exploration, leading to definition of new mineral resources and economic growth in Canada and internationally," said Fireweed Zinc CEO Brandon Macdonald. "We are thrilled to not only be able to access this game-changing technology before our peers, but also to be directly involved in making it happen."
Even the world's largest mining company is intrigued by the potential of this mineral exploration technology being developed in Canada.
"Technology will help us unlock the next generation of resources the world needs to support economic growth and decarbonization," said BHP Chief Technical Officer Laura Tyler. "Through partnerships with technology innovators and others in the resources industry, we can help bring new technologies to market that will improve the precision, depth, and sustainability of exploration in Canada and globally."
The Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project has a total investment of C$13.5 million, with C$7.9 million invested by industry and C$5.6 million co-invested through the Supercluster's Digital Twins program. Mitacs, a national organization that operates research and training programs in industrial and social innovation, is adding C$345,000 in net funding to support a team of post-doctoral researchers at Simon Fraser University.
"The Digital Supercluster is proud to be working with such an amazing group of Canadian companies that are demonstrating a true commitment to environmental sustainability," said Supercluster CEO Sue Paish.