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Model, Software Find Minerals in Mountain Ranges

Gold Mine (Andrew Kuznetsov/Flickr)A geophysicist at Tel Aviv University in Israel has developed modeling techniques and associated software for discovering minerals in mountain ranges, which are difficult to survey for mining opportunities. Lev Eppelbaum, a professor in the university’s geophysics and planetary sciences department, presented his methods in a paper at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in April, and in a book published  this year, co-authored with the late Boris Khesin of Ben Gurion University.

Geophysical factors such as gravity, magnetics, temperature, polarization, and electromagnetism are used to discover underground metals, as well as reserves of oil, gas, or water. Sorting through these clues is tricky enough on simple terrain, but is made more difficult where the topography is complex. After an environmental analysis, says Eppelbaum, one needs to “calculate the different types of background noise,” a more challenging task in mountains.

To perform these calculations in mountains. Eppelbaum and Khesin started with current methods and technologies of geophysical analysis, then developed new mathematical techniques to process the information they gathered. They then wrote software which allows the user to interpret all the information in a cohesive 3D image. “This 3D combined modelling software, which we programmed ourselves,” says Eppelbaum, “enables scientists to see the buried targets more clearly.”

As reported in the paper and in the book, the methods devised by Eppelbaum and Khesin uncovered a previously unknown reserve of metals and minerals on the southern slope of the Caucasus, part of the mountain range between Europe and Asia that stretches from the Black to the Caspian Seas. The reserves include copper, zinc, lead, aluminum, and a mixture of gold and silver.

Eppelbaum believes one deposit alone has more than 500,000 tons of previously undiscovered polymetallic ore. Other zones that could contain ore reserves have also been identified with the new methods. He says the techniques can be applied to other mountainous regions, including the Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. and Canada, or the Alps in Europe.

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Photo: Andrew Kuznetsov/Flickr

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