Earth X-ray for Low-Impact Mining

Accelerating the global transition to low-impact mining with the world’s first Earth x-ray discovery platform

Project Overview

Updated March 31, 2023

The Problem

There’s no clean energy without mining. To power the global transition to technologies such as electrification, wind, solar, nuclear, and other clean-tech energy solutions, production of many critical minerals and metals needs to increase by nearly 500% over the next 20-30 years. With most near-surface deposits already discovered, the mining industry is now being forced to search deeper underground.

Traditional search methods equate to a lot of unnecessary, invasive, and costly drilling, with an average return on investment of -45%. These drilling costs currently account for 55% (US$6B) of the annual global exploration investment spend. Innovation is required to enable precision-targeting, change the economics of exploration, and with it reduce the current environmental impact of mining while increasing the sustainable production of critical mineral resources.

How We Are Solving It

This project, led by muon tomography pioneer Ideon Technologies, will allow mining companies — through new implementation and integration methods — to identify, map, and monitor subsurface anomalies down to 1 km beneath the Earth’s surface, much like x-rays and MRIs give us visibility inside the human body. The project consortium, which includes Dias Geophysical, Fireweed Metals, Simon Fraser University, Mitacs, and Microsoft (with additional industry support from BHP), is building, testing, and deploying a Subsurface Intelligence Platform to help precision-target deposits and create the environmentally responsible mineral supply chain needed to fuel the clean energy transition.

The Subsurface Intelligence 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 increased visibility and locational accuracy will help reduce ‘hit-and-miss’ drilling and the associated environmental impacts. This Canadian innovation can positively impact the underlying economics of a very traditional industry, paving the way for low-impact mining – or, for some minerals, being able to mine without a mine.

The Result

Ideon Technologies’ world-leading technology is accelerating the transition to a net-zero future by identifying critical minerals up to 1 km beneath the Earth’s surface and increasing geological certainty to more than 95%. Their Earth X-ray platform is now being deployed in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Australia through 4/5 of the world’s largest mining companies. The project is also an example of the phenomenal scaling potential and trajectory that collaborative innovation can lead to for Canadian SMEs, with Ideon doubling their staff in 2023 and on target to double again in 2024.

Ideon Technologies and their work with this project also received the 2023 Governor General’s Award for Innovation, as nominated by DIGITAL.

Project Lead

  • Ideon 2

Project Partners

  • Dias 1
  • microsoft@2x e1632716841590
  • SFU New
  • fireweed zinc
  • BHP 1
  • mitacs@2x e1632685086233

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