|Schodde RC, "The Global Shift to Undercover Exploration - How fast? How effective?" Keynote paper for the Society of Economic Geologists 2014 Conference, Keystone Colorado September 2014.|
The purpose of this paper was to tease out a more considered view on the depth-of-cover issue for mineral exploration. While it is correct to say that that on average, the industry is exploring under progressively deeper cover, it is incorrect to say that there all of the outcropping deposits in the World have now been found. It is also incorrect to say that the recent dramatic decline in discovery performance is entirely due to our inability to identify and delineate good targets under-cover. The nuanced answer is that it all depends on the country, commodity, deposit style, search technology and the business cycle.
Key observations are:
In summary the challenge of increasing depth of cover is important but it is "slow-burning" issue, which is most felt in brownfield exploration and mature countries (like Australia, Canada and the US). To offset the decline in exploration performance industry constantly needs to develop new search concepts and technologies. As deep cover is effectively a new search-space, the prize for effectively exploring under deep cover can be huge.