The evolution of a project from initial study to commissioning can take 10 to 20 years and in the end only a small percentage of identified targets ever become a mine. The exploration process is divided into five stages:
Area selection – deciding where to explore
The Exploration team conducts desktop evaluations of geological, geochemical and geophysical data to find areas that could potentially contain an orebody.
Target identification – determining whether a deposit may exist
Mapping and surveying takes place within a selected area. The team then works to determine whether or not a target representing the desired mineral deposit exists.
Target testing – assessing the nature of mineralization
Upon obtaining temporary land access, the team performs the first sub‑surface evaluation of the prospects through limited drilling and reaching.
Resource delineation – determining deposit size, grade and metallurgy
If results from initial drilling are encouraging, additional drilling takes place to estimate the extent of mineralization. The team works more closely with local communities to analyze environmental and social issues, and starts baseline studies if these have not previously begun.
Resource evaluation – judging whether a deposit will be economical
The team carries out more detailed investigation of a deposit to decide whether it will be economic to develop. This involves more drilling, metallurgical and engineering studies as well as an economic analysis. After this stage, called an Order of Magnitude Study, deposits with potential value are handed over to the appropriate product group for evaluation.
We examine each opportunity individually to determine the appropriate level of investment. This will vary based on the quality of the opportunity, the project risks, as well as our assessment of the long term prospects for the commodity. If the evaluation determines that extraction of the mineral resource can be profitable, the process moves from exploration to mining. To maximize opportunities in the region, we will continue to explore for additional resources in the Upper Peninsula.
Today most mineral deposits are discovered by aerial exploration. Sensitive instruments detect “anomalies,” which might be valuable minerals, but could also be a pipeline, logging area, steel building or minerals of no value. Let’s take a look at a score card on 10,000 anomalies: