• Firmer ground

    Firmer ground

    In South Africa, geophysicists from Wits University have developed cost-effective and sustainable technology that will take the guesswork out of predicting geological profiles ahead of a mine- or tunnel-face, making mining exploration safer.

    The project answers a call from Advanced Orebody Knowledge (a programme run by the Mandela Mining Precinct in Gauteng that supplies information and knowledge to mine planners, geologists, engineers and decision-makers to aid in optimal mineral extraction and achieve zero-harm objectives) to develop ‘technologies that will be used to obtain information ahead of the mine face […] to develop technology such as tunnel seismic prediction’.

    According to Wits University, the technology merges active and passive seismic methods, using a combination of instruments such as wireless recording systems, ‘for exploration in noisy, near-mine environments at 300m to 3 500m depths’.

    Musa Manzi, director of the Wits Seismic Research Centre, says the project’s active-passive seismic technology promotes sustainable mining. Traditional active seismic methods have fallen by the wayside over the years for economic and environmental reasons. He adds that the new technology is ‘easier to adapt to a small-scale seismic survey inside the mine where space is limited and conditions are challenging’. A land streamer array of geophones, for example, eliminates the need to plant traditional geophones into the ground, which can be difficult to do in a mine tunnel.

    The technology underwent tests at a platinum mine in Rustenburg last year and the team is now working with local and international researchers to improve the passive seismic-imaging resolution, to enable it to be used in all mineral exploration projects.

    2 February 2020
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images