Prof. Lev Eppelbaum of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences with the late Prof. Boris Khesin of Ben Gurion University have developed a new method for processing and analyzing the data of complex environments such as the complex environment of mountain ranges.
Much of the expectations of energy and fuel production, use and efficiency hinges on affordable supplies of precious and rare metallic elements.
Technological development has already taken much of the raw guesswork out of mining, but mountain ranges are still notoriously difficult environments in which to hunt for valuable minerals. Subsurface imaging methods used to draw a picture of the underground environment, including the measurement of gravitational and magnetic fields, are easily thrown off by factors such as changes in topography height, surrounding temperature, and barometric pressure. That “3D” effect of working on a protruding geological feature poses immense data challenges.
Prof. Eppelbaum combined new physical-mathematical approaches with his group’s advanced software that brings together all available analysis in the same three-dimensional image. That data management power, or mining and processing if you will, allows the researchers to overcome the difficulties posed by mountainous regions, successfully uncovering new mineral reserves.
Prof. Eppelbaum presented at the European Geosciences Conference in Vienna in April 2012 and in the book Geophysical Studies in the Caucasus.
The big news is the method has already uncovered a previously unknown polymetallic reserve on the southern slope of the Caucasus, part of a vast mountain range between Europe and Asia that stretches from the Black Sea on the west to the Caspian Sea on the east end. The reserves include copper, zinc, lead, aluminum, and a mixture of gold and silver.
The geophysical fields of gravity, magnetism, temperature, polarization, and electromagnetism play crucial roles in the hunt for underground metals or other resources like oil, gas, or water. The density of polymetallic ore, which consists of more than one metal, exceeds that of the surrounding rocks, creating a gravity anomaly. Although a 3D gravity analysis may then be used to decode these environmental cues, reserves do not reveal themselves that easily.
That’s where Prof. Eppelbaum techniques are applied. He says, “After the environmental analysis, you must calculate the different types of background ‘noise’,” accounting for the complexity of the topography, environmental characteristics, and more influences. Mountain ranges present particularly difficult terrain for this kind of calculation.
In order to get around these issues and put the information to work, Profs. Eppelbaum and Khesin improved the current methods of geophysical analysis. They developed new mathematical approaches to process the information gathered from already-existing technology and from their own specially designed software that allows the user to interpret all the information in a cohesive 3D image.
Prof. Eppelbaum said, “This 3D combined modeling software, which we programmed ourselves, enables scientists to see the buried targets more clearly.” That had to be a mountain of work.
Eppelbaum believes they have discovered more than 500,000 tons of previously undiscovered polymetallic ore in the Caucasus mountainside in a single ore deposit in the first run of the technology. Other zones that could contain ore reserves have also been identified by the new methodology.
Prof. Eppelbaum, an expert in the Caucasus Mountain points out that this technique can be applied to any region of the world, but most effectively in mountainous regions such as the Appalachian Mountains in the US and Canada or the Alps in Europe.
Prof. Eppelbaum plans to develop collaborations with international geophysicists in an effort to discover new reserves around the world. “These reserves are very valuable resources for countries to discover,” he says.
That is just so. Reserves of the precious, rare earth and common minerals are of great interest. If the materials needed to build the future are in short supply or missing from the commercial trade much technology just won’t make it to markets and consumers.
The good professor and his late collaborator have earned a Thank You ahead of the congratulations. The world economy needs the resources located so the lowest possible cost materials can find their way to manufacturers the world over.