Unearthing mineral deposits around the world

Around the world, our LANDTEM exploration tool is being used to unearth new mineral deposits worth billions of dollars.

The Challenge

Locating minerals deep underground

After 150 years of mining, most mineral deposits near to the surface have already been discovered. Increasingly, mining companies are looking for ore bodies located deeper in the Earth's crust.

To accelerate new discoveries, new cost-effective technologies are being developed to help pinpoint the location of valuable ores deeper underground.

Our Response

A portable tool to detect mineral ore

We developed LANDTEM, a highly portable exploration tool that's valuable for detecting highly conductive ores like nickel sulphides, gold and silver.

LANDTEM uses highly sensitive magnetic sensors known as Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) to spot the difference between ore and conductive material or overburden, even when the ore body is deeply buried.

Our LANDTEM exploration tool is helping pinpoint valuable ore bodies.

The technology was developed and commercialised in collaboration with BHP Billiton and former Canadian mining company, Falconbridge.

It is now licensed to Australian company Outer-Rim Exploration Services and is used extensively for minerals exploration in Western Australia.

The Results

Billion dollar discoveries

LANDTEM has led to discoveries on more than four continents worth billions of dollars.

It's also cutting costs for minerals explorers, such as a company working in Quebec, Canada which reported reducing their exploration costs by 30 per cent.

The SQUIDs technology used in LANDTEM has been applied to a range of different industries, such as in security to detect weapons.

LANDTEM: 2015 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Dr Cathy Foley PSM FTSE and Mr Keith Leslie

Show transcript

[Music plays and text appears: ATSE - Clunies Ross Awards Dinner 2015 - Research in action]

[Image changes to show Dr Cathy Foley and Mr Keith Leslie walking of footpath]

Voice over: Leading Australian physicist Dr Kathy Foley and accomplish CSIRO engineer Keith Leslie are the minds behind LANDTEM, a device that detects conductive mineral ore deposits by determining the strength EDDIE currents induced into buried ore bodies by magnetic field transmitter located on the surface of the earth.

[Camera pans to Dr Cathy Foley and Mr Keith Leslie entering CSIRO facility]

LANDTEM is sustaining one of Australia’s most important economic growth areas. While globally the technology is helping to ensure future mineral resources that our quality of life depends on.

[Cuts to Dr Peter Lily sitting at desk and text appears: 'Dr Peter Lily PhD FTSE FIEAust FAusIMM CP(Min) - Director of EZONE UWA - Chairman, minerals research institute of Western Australia']

Dr Peter Lily: Ore bodies of the future are all buried under cover, we can see them on the surface this enables us to see through that cover to find those ore bodies before you actually start drilling very expensive holes you have a much better idea of what actually down there.

[Panning shot of mine then back to Lindfield CSIRO facility]

Voice over: Beginning in the nineteen eighties CSIRO initiated the research program that was eventually led by Dr Foley and led to the use and you superconducting materials to create a unique SQUID sensor.

[Cuts to Mr Keith Leslie in open room - text on screen: ‘Mr Keith Leslie - Research Scientist - CSIRO']

Mr Keith Leslie: A super conductivity is the total absence of resistance in a material when you cool it below a critical temperature.

[Cuts to Dr Cathy Foley in open room: Text on screen ‘Dr Cathy Foley PSM FTSE - Deputy Director and Science Director - CSIRO']

Dr Cathy Foley: A SQUID is a superconducting quantum interference device and it allows us to be able to use macroscopic quantum affects to be able to detect small magnetic fields.

[Cuts to researcher using LANDTEM Device]

Voice over: Responsible for turning Dr Foley’s prototype into a marketable device Keith Leslie led the engineering development of the LANDTEM project. Heading a small team Keith transformed the existing system with a fragile SQUIDs requires skilled technicians to operate into a robust, portable, easy to use product. Initial funding from BHP enabled testing a precursor to the LANDTEM in North West Queensland, where some ground breaking discoveries were made.

[Cuts to Dr Cathy Foley in open room, cuts to Cannington Silver Mine]

Dr Cathy Foley: Probably the biggest thing for us was when BHP ran the system over the Cannington Silver Mine and were able to demonstrate very clearly that was two loads present and as a consequence around measurements they were able to put a first-ball hole right through the centre of their load.

[Image of Dr Foley and Mr Leslie walking through laboratories]

Voice over: In the late 1990s due to the mining downturn BHP ended this finding. Determined to continue through to commercialization stage Dr Foley secured alternative funding with Canadian mining company Falconbridge.

[Cuts to Mr Keith Leslie in open room]

Mr Keith Leslie: The first trial of the prototype of a LANDTEM was in Raglan Quebec it was up in the snow line so there are no trees there, was quite a wild environment to be working in. We took the airborne system that we developed for BHP, we put in Woolworths plastic box and took it out in the snow and made our first measurements.

[Cuts to corridors of Lindfield CSIRO facility]

Voice over: For a numbered years Cathy and Keith promoted the potential benefits of using SQUID senses for mineral prospecting within the local and international geophysics communities.

[Cuts to Mr Bill Peters sitting at desk, text appears on screen: 'Mr Bill Peters - Director - Southern Geoscience Consultants, cuts to still images of researches taking LANDTEM device in remote area']

Mr Bill Peters: I met Cathy at a digital conference in early 2000 and we spoke about her technology she was developing and she said I’m looking for somewhere we can test it in real life. And I said got the place in Western Australia Maggie Hays.

[Cuts to Mr Keith Leslie in open room, cuts to still of researchers using LANDTEM in remote area]

Mr Keith Leslie: The first trial was a failure because we buried the sensors in the red soil. Took us a while to work out the cause for that failure. Once we worked that out Kathy was very vigorous on getting us back onto that particular site and doing other trial.

[Cuts to Mr Bill Peters sitting at desk]

Mr Bill Peters: They returned in 2001 and we did the survey line directly across a nickel deposit at Maggie Hays and got a very clear anomaly from a deep conductor.

[Cuts to Dr Foley and Mr Leslie putting on protective lab coats, inspecting lavatory equipment]

Voice over: In 2002 they submit an article the Australian geophysics exploration journal detailing the success of SQUID sensor trials undertaken at Maggie Hays and CSIRO’s desire to commercialise the system. This initiated the licensing of LANDTEM to Australian Start-up Company Outer-Rim Exploration Services Pioneered by Brett Rankin.

[Cuts to Mr Brett Rankin sitting at desk]

Mr Brett Rankin: Doesn't become a real innovation until someone picks it up and uses it for the benefit of humankind and that's really that connection for me the commercialisation and innovation that makes that happen.

[Cuts to LANDTEM technology]

Voice over: In the past eight years another 10 LANDTEM systems have been built and deployed successfully on four continents to help unearth mineral deposits worth over six billion dollars. The technology is also far less invasive and environmentally damaging than other methods. Over the coming years LANDTEM will continue to play a major role in the world wide discovery of new mineral deposits.

[Cuts to Mr Keith Leslie in open room]

Keith Leslie: So our next step is to improve the electronics so we can get to the inherent sensitivity of the SQUIDs.  If we can do that it will enable the survey companies to see deeper.

[Cuts to Cathy and Keith in laboratory]

Voice over: Cathy and Keith’s collaboration and commitment to their individual roles in LANDTEM’s development are part of a twenty-five year journey has made LANDTEM the success it is today.

[Cuts to Mr Keith Leslie in open room]

Keith Leslie: Cathy is the entrepreneurial type who's out there and getting contacts and she's a great leading light that way and I’m the engineering type that makes it all happen.

[Cuts to Dr Cathy Foley in open room]

Cathy Foley: Where I’m the person who is always pushing the boundaries and trying to say let's go for that stretch goal and Keith’s the one who has to say “hang on a minute we’ve got to make this really work".

[Cuts to Dr Cathy Foley and Mr Keith Leslie leaving CSIRO facility]

Voice over: This year we highlight Dr Cathy Foley's and Keith Leslie’s contribution to Australia's scientific and economic prosperity with the ATSE Clunies Ross Award.

[Music and text on screen: ATSE - Clunies Ross Awards Dinner 2015 - Research in action]

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