New tech to revolutionise mineral exploration

By on 20 October, 2015

CSIRO’s Lab-at-Rig at work.


A CSIRO-led innovation that enables fast, automated analysis of rock materials directly from drill sites is to be commercialised, opening the way for millions of dollars worth of potential cost and time savings.

The Lab-at-Rig technology that CSIRO has developed in partnership with Imdex and Olympus, under the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC), enables chemistry and mineralogy of rocks found within a drill hole to be analysed within minutes of drilling. The new technology features automated analysis of mineralogy and geochemistry of drill-hole cuttings direct from the drill site, while still offering the relevant sampling methods and quality control current processes use.

“Lab-at-Rig is an important breakthrough for the industry because of the potentially massive cost savings in drilling, exploration and overall mining operations,” says CSIRO Lab-at-Rig Futures Project Leader, Dr Yulia Uvarova.

“If mining or exploration companies have real time information about the mineralogy and chemistry in the drill-hole they can efficiently plan what to do next; whether that is to drill deeper, drill further holes, try elsewhere or to stop,” she said.

“Ultimately, Lab-at-Rig will provide improved decision making and productivity for mineral resource operations.”

The Lab-at-Rig system, fitted to a diamond drill rig and Imdex’s AMC Solids Removal Unit includes: a sample preparation unit that collects solids from drill cuttings and dries them; Olympus X-ray fluorescence and X-ray diffraction sensors to provide chemistry and mineralogy of the sample respectively; and the ability to upload data to REFLEX’s cloud-based platform where it can be analysed and provided back to the explorer.

This technology will provide a great advantage over the current process which can take three months and often millions of dollars to set up the drill sites, drill, extract, sample and log the drill cores, send to a lab for analysis, enter data into a database and finally provide information back to the company.

Lab-at-Rig offers a one-hour cycle for the whole process enabling rapid decision making and cost savings.

Lab-at-Rig is the product of two years of research and development and a tribute to the successful collaboration of the research and industry partners through the DET CRC, according to CSIRO’s Discovering Australia’s Mineral Resources Program Director, Dr Rob Hough.

CSIRO, Imdex, Olympus, University of Adelaide and Curtin University are now working on the $11 million collaborative DET CRC Lab-at-Rig Futures Project which will build the next generation system to cover: new sensor technologies, improved data analysis and processing for decision making, and development of the system for new applications and drilling platforms.


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