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A Resource Challenged Transition

January 2024

Advantages of Airborne Geophysical Surveying for Raw Materials

Airborne geophysical surveying is quickly becoming one of the most important methods of detecting raw material reserves. In the next 30 years, it is predicted that to meet CO2 emissions targets (principally through electrification), humankind will need to extract twice as much copper than has been produced so far. 

How can airborne geophysical surveying contribute towards this?
In this insight, we discuss exactly that. 

a resource challenged transition min

The Importance of Airborne Geophysical Surveying

Although future copper shortages are routinely discussed and presumably well known, the problem is mirrored across a wide range of other critical metals and elements, such as nickel, cobalt, and lithium, to name three. In the context of CO2 reduction, we should also bear in mind that natural gas will be a strategically important interim energy supply while renewables, hydrogen and nuclear energy play catch up. Therefore, the search for new gas reserves is likely to continue for at least another decade, as suggested by Wood Mackenzie’s recent forecast that global LNG imports will grow from about 554 billion CBM in 2023 to about 857 billion CBM in 2040. 

Considering the current resource discovery rate and the inevitable decade-long lag between discovery and effective exploitation, there has never been more urgency to explore more efficiently for these raw materials. To meet this rapidly growing demand for key energy transition metals requires effective and rapid exploration. On top of this, there is increasing demand to explore and exploit these resources far more sustainably. To make matters even more complex, some of these strategic reserves are geographically constrained to a limited number of countries. Considering all of these points, airborne geophysical surveying has quickly become one of the most important methods for research and exploitation. 

Benefits of Airborne Geophysical Surveying

Airborne geophysical surveying offers numerous environmental and other benefits, including rapid data acquisition, high accuracy, as well as significantly reduced environmental and HSE impact. 

These surveys minimise environmental disturbance and reduce the need for extensive land access, clearances and permissions in areas without roads and other means of access. They also allow prioritisation of areas for more detailed exploration, reducing the need for extensive drilling, which can be environmentally disruptive.

Other Advantages of Airborne Geophysical Surveying

Airborne geophysical surveying acquires data rapidly over large areas, making this speedy surveying method particularly advantageous for large-scale assessments. This allows for practical, comprehensive sovereign state resource mapping projects. Data can be processed, and interim results can be produced every 24 hours, allowing prioritisation of areas of interest for further infill. Multiple geophysical data sets can be acquired in a single survey.

Metatek routinely acquires high-resolution gravity gradiometry, scalar gravity, magnetics and LiDAR in most of its surveys. 

Airborne Geophysical Surveys – Final Thoughts

Surely, more large-scale airborne geophysical surveys provide a cost-effective first step in helping enable a resource-constrained transition.

At Metatek, we are able to offer various technologies when it comes to airborne geophysical surveys. Take a look at our technology menu to see the different options. 

For further information, please contact the team today.   

TOTAL METALS REQUIRED FOR CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES TO MEET CO2 EMISSION TARGETS (2050)

Resource Metal

Required Production (tons)

Known Reserves (tons)

Known Reserves ability to cover anticipated demand

Copper

4,600,000,000

880,000,000

Reserves cover ~ 20%

Cobalt

218,400,000

7,600,000

Reserves cover ~ 3.5%

Graphite

8,974,000,000

320,000,000

Reserves cover ~ 3.6%

Lithium

944,150,000

95,000,000

Reserves cover ~ 10%

Nickel

940,500,000

95,000,000

Reserves cover ~ 10%

Vanadium

682,000,000

24,000,000

Reserves cover ~ 3.5% 

Contact Metatek for more information

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