Developed by CSIRO in collaboration with the mining industry through AMIRA International, the system applies state-of-the-art aircraft and satellite-based mineral-mapping technology to significantly increase the geological, geotechnical and metallurgical knowledge gained from drill cores, chips and blast hole powders.
Dr Huntington, a Chief Research Scientist with CSIRO Exploration and Mining in Sydney, and his team have developed what is believed to be the world's first automatic system for mapping drill core.
"At the heart of the system is a sophisticated visible to short-wave infrared reflectance spectrometer that rapidly measures molecular level absorption characteristics of a suite of alteration and rock-forming minerals", Dr Huntington said.
"The system also includes automated tray handling, spectrometer, illumination, safety processes and high-resolution imaging subsystems," he said.
Developed primarily for the hard rock industry, further work is being undertaken to increase the tool’s applicability to coal exploration.
At present the system can be used to look at the roof and floor rocks surrounding a coal seam. This will help understand the geotechnical properties which relate to safety issues; rock properties and things like swelling clays which may be difficult to manage, Huntington said. Potential savings for the mining industry will come from advance warning of minerals that may adversely affect processing circuits or indicate unsafe or 'bad' ground.
“We’ve been asked to look at the cleats and mineralogy sitting in the veins which bears on issues like gas release. This is in the future.”
During the demonstration at the department's Zillmere data centre, the core logger is analysing about 1500 metres of coal, base metal and stratigraphic core