Geophysical methods of exploration are means to collect geophysical data that can be used to prospect directly for economic minerals that are characterized by a

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geophysical methods of explorationGeophysical patterns can be used indirectly for exploration by mapping the geology in detail, including faults shear zones, folding, alteration zones and other structures.
To obtain this data, survey areas are systematically traversed by fixed wing aircraft carrying geophysical equipment along parallel flight lines. The traverse lines are oriented to intersect the geology and structure so as to maximize the magnetic signal response when acquiring geophysical data.
There are a variety of methods of geophysical surveys that are used in mineral prospecting. Through either ground or airborne methods, geophysical companies employ the use of magnetic, radiometric and electromagnetic surveys to detect anomalous responses which may be indicative of concentrations of minerals.
Magnetic Surveys
The most commonly used first step in geophysical exploration process is the aeromagnetic survey.  A magnetometer or often a series of magnetometers are attached to an aircraft in stingers, or wingtip pods to measure the intensity of the earth's magnetic field, thereby permitting the detection of ambient magnetic fields caused by the minerals that are present in the ground. The physical separation of the magnetic sensors from the aircraft is critical to the quality of the data, hence the need for specially modified aircraft and equipment for geophysical exploration. The geophysical data is processed to remove the magnetic signature of the aircraft, and non-geological sources such as solar activity.  Geophysicists can then analyze the airborne data and make recommendations on the next step in a mineral exploration.  Using this method, mining companies are able to understand where significant concentrations of minable magnetic ores may occur in the Earth's crust. 
Aeromagnetic surveys can also aid in the detection of hydrocarbon, uranium, titanium, petroleum, coal, base and precious metals. The resolution of the data is dependent upon, among other things;
  • the distance between the traverse line spacing
  • the magnetic signature of the aircraft itself
  • variations in the diurnal activity
  • and, as such a survey can be categorized as either regional or detailed.
An aeromagnetic survey is measured in Line kilometers, which is the distance that the aircraft must travel to cover the entire survey area flying in a grid pattern.   Regional aeromagnetic surveys are flown at a wider line spacing (often 500 m or greater), with the intention of acquiring a generalized understanding of magnetic features, useful to identify areas for further detailed aeromagnetic follow up.
A detailed aeromagnetic survey offers data at a higher resolution and can be used as a means of prospecting by mining companies.  Typically performed at 50m meters line spacing and as low and slow to the ground as is possible within the safety parameters of the aircraft (typically 50-70m AGL). A detailed survey will offer data on the presence of minable magnetic ores and for mapping structure. Magnetic maps are often used in conjunction with other geophysical survey methods such as radiometrics, and VLF-EM to create a more comprehensive geophysical and geological understanding of the survey area.
Radiometrics Survey
Terraquest primarily uses digital airborne gamma-ray spectrometers which are designed for the detection and measurement of low-level radiation from both naturally occurring and man-made sources, associated with the radioactive elements; thorium, potassium, and uranium. Gamma Ray Spectrometry provides a direct measurement of the surface of the earth, with no significant penetration, but permits reliable measurement of the radioactive element contacts to the mapped bedrock and surficial geology. (Source;
Potassium (K), uranium (U) and thorium (Th) are the three most abundant, naturally occurring radioactive elements. K is a major constituent of most rocks and is the predominant alteration element in most mineral deposits. Uranium and thorium are present in trace amounts, as mobile and immobile elements, respectively. As the concentration of these different radioactive elements varies between different rock types, we can use the information provided by a gamma-ray spectrometer to map the rocks. Where the 'normal' radioelement signature of the rocks is disrupted by a mineralizing system, corresponding radioelement anomalies provide direct exploration guidance. (Source;
Airborne methods provide valuable, systematic coverage of large areas which are invaluable when used in conjunction with other survey products such as magnetics.
Electromagnetic Surveys
EM Surveys are used in most geological environments except where the country rock is highly conductive or where overburden is both thick and conductive.
Airborne electromagnetic surveys generate the strongest EM responses from massive sulphides and can use manmade primary electromagnetic fields to measure the electromagnetic properties of rocks.
Terraquest uses a proprietary method of measuring Very Low Frequency (VLF) EM, called XDS VLF-EM to map structure. The system typically responds to variations in overburden conductivity, to large faults or shear zones, and to graphitic formational conductors. Because of these characteristics, XDS VLF-EM can be useful as a mapping tool, particularly when combined with magnetics.
The VLF signal is transmitted around the world by governments, primarily for communication purposes. In North America there are three transmitters, a very powerful one in Cutler, Maine (24.0 KHz) another of medium power at LaMoure, North Dakota (25.2 KHz) and another at Jim Creek, Washington (24.8) Signals from these transmitters cover most of the continent and act as primary fields that are capable of energizing conductive bodies (such as graphite, metallic minerals and structures) in the ground. Once energized, the current within these bodies emits a secondary field forming the basis for a geophysical exploration.
The Terraquest Ltd proprietary XDS VLF-EM system uses three orthogonal coils mounted in the aircraft stinger, coupled with a broadband receiver to record all frequencies between 22.0-27.0 KHz, to measure the X, Y and Z components of the VLF field. Three component data provides more detailed information about the nature of the earth's conductivity than simple total field measurements could. The horizontal components tend to be strongest where currents are present (over conductive zones) while the z component tends to peak over contacts.
It is important to emphasize that properly calibrated airborne and gamma-ray spectrometry surveys produce quantitative geophysical data. The combination of gamma-ray spectrometry with magnetic and electromagnetic sensors, acquired by a modern digital system, yields powerful mapping and exploration tools for exploration professionals, from individual prospectors to mining and exploration companies.
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