INFORMATION STRATEGIES IN A SMALL EXPLORATION COMPANY
Alfred Eggo and Michael Doepel
Sipa Resources International NL, Level 2, 87 Colin Street, West Perth, WA 6872
Key Words: geochemistry, geographic information system, geophysics, image processing, metallogenic modelling, remote sensing, tenement
The current competition for high quality ground over prospective areas of Australia (Figure 1) demands the use of multi-disciplinary, district- and continental-scale geotechnical information so that exploration resources can be concentrated on projects with the highest probability of success. Assessment of these very large databases is carried out with the use of geographic information and image processing systems that are utilised to manage the data, prepare maps (i.e. visualisation), make predictions, test geological hypotheses and carry out spatial queries, thus providing critical support to the exploration decision making process.
Current tenement situation over Australia (granted tenement and tenement applications shown in black as at April 2001).
Such an approach is especially useful for identifying new areas of enhanced prospectivity that are also available for exploration and development. Continental-scale geotechnical information in digital form, such as geological (Figure 2), geophysical (e.g. magnetic and gravity), metallogenic (Figure 3) and remote sensing information have been available from state and federal agencies and from the private sector for a number of years, and are becoming increasingly affordable to small and medium sized exploration companies. Unfortunately, due to very high collection and analytical costs, there has been little effort made by government agencies to collect basic geochemical and mineralogical observations at a similar scale, coverage and appropriate resolution.
Regional-scale state & Territory digital geological mapping available from various government agencies.
This situation is disappointing as comprehensive regional geochemical and mineralogical databases have significant long-term value to exploration companies including:
1 Mineral exploration - to help identify occurrences of metalliferous minerals of potential economic significance.
Geological mapping - to provide information on lithological compositional and regional structures that may be difficult to detect by other means.
Pollution studies - to provide reliable information on the natural and artificial levels of elements, so that realistic assessments of contamination can be made. Geochemical databases are highly effective for showing the Natural variations in element concentrations that occur in the environment and thus can be used to counter uninformed debate.
Provision of advice to government for Minerals Resource Assessment and Land Use Planning - to identify areas of potential mineralisation, so that they are not sterilised by inappropriate development.
A strategy was adopted in 1999 by the directors of Sipa Resources International NL to gain access to appropriate databases for project generation and area selection through negotiation of a data licensing agreement with a major exploration company. An agreement was finally negotiated and signed in January 2000 through which the company gained access to the very large and comprehensive geochemical and mineralogical databases of Rio Tinto Exploration Pty Limited.
Location of known metallic and non-metallic deposits and occurrences over Australia and offshore (data derived from a number of government sources).
The agreement provides Sipa Resources International with a unique opportunity to explore for world class base and precious metals deposits in Australia. All exploration will be conducted through Sipa - Gaia NL, a JV company which is majority owned by Sipa Resources International NL.
If a resource is identified with an in-ground value of more than US$500 million, Rio Tinto has the right to buy back up to 70% of the relevant properties by reimbursing Sipa-Gaia NL three times expenditure for the percentage being acquired. Alternatively it may accept a royalty equal to 3% of the Net Smelter Return. For resources with an in-ground value of less US$500 million, Rio Tinto will have the right to accept the 3% royalty.
This presentation will demonstrate the approach and application of some of the information technologies that Sipa Resources International NL has employed to allow the efficient integration of the Rio Tinto databases with the complementary geotechnical information available from the public domain.
The authors thank Sipa Resources International NL for providing permission to publish this paper.