Representatives from Oxford Earth Sciences were recently invited to the launch of Stanford University’s Mineral-X Institute to talk about their basin analysis and multi-physics CuBES (Copper Basins Exploration Science) project.
Mineral-X was launched by Stanford University’s Doerr School of Sustainability earlier this year as a new data science and AI institute. The institute will act as a hub for research relating to the mineral world, ranging from exploration science to the policies of environmental stewardship and societal representation. It was created to advance the supply of critical minerals sustainably and responsibly.
Speakers and affiliations represented at the Mineral-X symposium.
Oxford Earth Science’s Professor Mike Daly, the PI of the CuBES basin analysis theme, was invited to the Mineral-X launch to discuss the project’s approaches to research in the Central African Copperbelt. Exploration in the Copperbelt region has previously been limited to the near-surface, reflecting the fact that our knowledge of global mineral distribution is strongly skewed to the top 500 metres of the earth’s crust.
The CuBES research experiment is directed at understanding hydrothermal processes in the deep crust and deepening the window of exploration success. To this end, an 800 km long geophysical corridor has been created across the basin. Comprising teleseismic, magneto-tellurics, gravity, magnetic and regional field-geology approaches, this combination of techniques is technologically way beyond any deep subsurface research done in this prolific copper mining region previously.
Professor Daly commented, “Copper is arguably the primary mineral enabler and greatest potential mineral constraint to the energy transition due to its unique conductive and storage capabilities. It will underpin growth in everything from transmission lines, storage and electric vehicles to High Performance Computing Centres. That growth will be fed by expanding old mines and finding new ones. For both we need new technology that can explore deeper into the earth and map large areas of unexplored rock volume”.
With the new and intensive datasets provided by the CuBES project, geophysicists will define the major hydrothermal pathways of copper bearing fluids, and how they are focussed and concentrated into material deposits. Daly added, “the other new aspect here will be our use of Artificial Intelligence and Bayesian techniques to fuse our large, new, geophysical and geological datasets to create new insight”.
The CuBES research project was central to two panel discussions. On the first day the discussion was centred around “Exploration and responsible mining in the Zambian Copperbelt” during the MineralX launch (featured image), where Professor Daly was joined by David Broughton, Hydrothermal Systems lead at KoBold Metals, and Lombe Mbulashi, Chief Legal Officer at ZCCM Investments Holdings, Zambia. The session was chaired by Josh Goldman, KoBold Metals Co-Founder and President.
On the second day the CuBES project was highlighted again in a discussion on “Advances in geopohysical imaging for mineral exploration”. Chaired by Jeff Caers, the founder of the Mineral-X Institute, and moderated by Tenzing Joshi, Staff Scientist at KoBold Metals, this session included Professor Daly alongside Dan Hollis, Director at Sisprobe SAS, Glenn Chubak, VP of Technology at Dias Geophysical, KoBold Minerals.
The CuBES project was funded by UKRI/NERC, and operates through an agreement between Oxford Earth Sciences and the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, Geological Survey Department of Zambia. The research is being performed in collaboration with scientists at SEIS-UK Leicester, the University of Southampton, Imperial College London, the University of Bristol, and the Natural History Museum. The minerals industry, working with Oxford Earth Sciences, has tripled the original funds to enable a multi-physics, integrated and powerful project. Oxford Postdoctoral Research Associate Rita Kounoudis and DPhil students Martin Purkiss and Toby MacKay all have industry support for their roles in this fundamental science experiment.
One of the thirty to seismometer sites along the 800 km profile. The Sites are fenced and wrapped up with various degrees of protective material. The most curious seismometer visitors have been Baboons and Monkeys. Stronger chicken wire was placed over the cages where they were expected in areas such as National Parks and large farming estates, to stop the vertical, drop-by entry. Over the 18 months of deployment, in sub-tropical conditions with an intense rainy season, all 32 seismometers have survived and are still working. They will be returned to SEIS-UK Leicester for some refurbishing and then redeployment to a new listening post somewhere on our active planet. Left to right: George Mubanga (GSD), Chaanza Chifwepa (GSD), Rita Kounoudis (Oxford Earth Sciences).
Featured Image: Josh Goldman, KoBold Metals Co-Founder and President, chairs the “Exploration and responsible mining in the Zambian Copperbelt” Panel at the Mineral-X symposium. From left to right: Josh Goldman, David Broughton, Lombe Mbulashi and Mike Daly.