Digital Technology Supercluster launches Earth X-ray for low-impact mining project

Earth. (Image by NASA, Flickr).

Canada’s “Digital Technology Supercluster” announced Thursday the launch of the Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project.

The project aims to deliver a new discovery platform that will help mining exploration companies to precision-target deposits beneath the Earth’s surface in a way that changes the economics of discovery and increases the sustainable production of critical mineral resources needed to fuel the clean energy transition, the group said in a media statement.

The Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project has a total investment of C$13.5 million ($10.6m) with over C$7.9 million ($6.2m) invested by industry and C$5.6 million ($4.4m) co-invested through the Supercluster’s Digital Twins program. Mitacs, a national research organization that operates research and training programs in industrial and social innovation, is adding C$345,000 ($272,000) in net funding to support a team of post-doctoral researchers at SFU.

Led by muon tomography pioneer Ideon Technologies and in partnership with Simon Fraser University (SFU), Dias Geophysical, Microsoft, Fireweed Zinc, and Mitacs, the Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining project will enable explorers cto identify density and magnetic anomalies with greater resolution and certainty up to 1 kilometre beneath the Earth’s surface, much like X-rays and MRIs provide visibility inside the human body.

BHP, the largest mining company in the world, supports the project and has committed to collaborating on the discovery platform as it is developed.

“As the world moves towards a low-carbon economy, global demand for critical minerals is increasing. 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,” François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry said in the media release.

To power the global transition to electrification, wind, solar, nuclear, and other clean-energy technologies, production of many critical minerals and metals needs to increase by nearly 500% over the next 20 to 30 years.

With most near-surface deposits already discovered, the mining industry is forced to search deeper underground in more difficult to reach locations. Traditional exploration methods involve extensive and environmentally invasive drilling, which often yields no results at a sizeable cost.
The Discovery Platform will feature state-of-the-art hardware and software, novel data inversion and integration techniques, advanced AI algorithms, and geostatistical methods to construct detailed 3D profiles of subsurface anomalies — such as mineral and metal deposits, air voids, caves, and other structures.

This new subsurface intelligence can positively impact the underlying economics of a very traditional industry, paving the way for low-impact mining exploration or, for some minerals, being able to mine without a mine, the group said.

“This project will generate new technologies and breakthrough approaches to help solve one of the oldest problems on Earth,” said Gary Agnew, Ideon CEO and Co-Founder.

“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.”

Learn more here.