Advances in geoscience are built on ingenuity. Circé Malo-Lalande knows it too well. She is a Senior Geophysicist at Canadian Royalties, a private mining company based in Montreal, Canada. This year Circé is celebrating 20 years of work in the geophysics industry.
“Geophysics, in my opinion, is a constant Research & Development [R&D] world,” she said. “It’s a niche domain. For example, almost every geophysical instrument we use is an R&D creature. A creator may only sell a hundred units worldwide, which are then directly improved based on feedback from geophysicists using them in the field.”
Geophysics is an intrinsic part of exploration, but we often forget it’s a small field that relies on constant innovation for new discoveries. Circé’s role at Canadian Royalties is no exception.
Canadian Royalties has already found success with nickel, copper, PGE deposits, including the Méquillon open pit mine in Nunavik, Quebec. What’s unique about the Méquillon deposit though, is that it’s lacking the massive sulphide core (due to fault displacement), which usually make these deposit types easily visible on electromagnetic surveys. Circé’s challenge was to develop a new geophysical workflow that would help her team look for similar deposit types on their property.
“We knew there could be more Méquillons,” Circé shared. “Our property is so vast, we needed something we could quickly deploy to explore the area.”
Since the deposits they would be looking for had specific challenges associated with them — they decided to bring in Mira Geoscience to help uncover innovative solutions. Mira Geoscience is a software and consulting company, committed to geoscience and technology advancement. Mira Geoscience is also the developer of Geoscience ANALYST, a powerful software solution for integrated, multi-disciplinary geoscience and mining data and models. Geoscience ANALYST is available in three different packages: the free 3D viewer, a powerful tool for visualization and communication; Geoscience ANALYST Pro, a low-cost solution that enables object creation and editing; and Geoscience ANALYST Pro Geophysics, the advanced yet easy-to-use solution for geophysical modelling and interpretation.
“We’d been working with Canadian Royalties for a few years already,” said Stanislawa Hickey, Senior Geophysicist at Mira Geoscience. “We were approached because they were wondering if they could find a more efficient way to detect nickel deposits on their property. These particular deposits are challenging in nature because of the geology around them, including highly conductive features — but also because of their disseminated texture. They don’t respond well to your usual electromagnetic methods.”
Testings New Methods for Geophysical Insights
Circé wanted to test if the ZTEM™ (Z-Axis Tipper Electromagnetic) airborne system by Geotech could work for Canadian Royalties. ZTEM™ is sensitive to weaker conductors, though it will not detect them if they are too small in size. So Circé wanted to run a proof of concept, to see if it could detect other Méquillon-type deposits on their property.
“We had a geologic model we’d already built for Canadian Royalties, from previous projects we’d done for them,” said Stanislawa. “So with that model, we were able to test if, in theory, the Méquillon deposit would show in a ZTEM survey. We did this through a forward modelling exercise using Geoscience ANALYST Pro Geophysics.”
The exercise had positive results, and from there, Canadian Royalties decided to fly a test survey. Mira was then asked to complete a 3D inversion of the ZTEM data, to ensure they could separate the signature of Méquillon from the adjacent highly conductive zones.
“At first, I was using our usual UBC inversion codes in Geoscience ANALYST Pro Geophysics — but we were limited by the cell size resolution and computational time required,” said Stanislawa. “Unfortunately, it didn’t provide the results we wanted.”
Now, it was up to Mira to chase innovation.
”"One of Mira’s strengths is that we try to think outside of the box, and use the latest technologies to help our client’s with their exploration challenges. For example, our Geoscience ANALYST Pro Geophysics software is the first geophysics platform to allow access to open-source codes like SimPEG."
- Stanislawa Hickey, P.Geo., Senior Geophysicist at Mira Geoscience.
SimPEG (Simulation and Parameter Estimation in Geophysics) is an open-source geophysical inversion framework. Open-source code means that anyone can view, modify, and build off of it; it’s the opposite of ‘black-box’ proprietary software. However, SimPEG is coded in Python. So if you don’t know how to code, it can be challenging to use. By creating an interface to easily access SimPEG within Geoscience ANALYST, Mira has removed the barrier to access — for geophysicists who want to use the inversion frameworks, but who don’t have a coding background.
Stanislawa speculated that the SimPEG inversion code could better extract the deposit signature from the ZTEM survey data.
“We used Méquillon as a test case for the SimPEG code,” explained Dominique Fournier, Scientific Programmer at Mira Geoscience. Dominique is also a current contributor and developer of the SimPEG code.
“It’s an academic code, so when it was written, the developers weren’t concerned about speed or running on big problems. Since we had already run other inversion codes on the data, we had something to benchmark against. In this way we used it for our own R&D as well, to improve the code. Canadian Royalties was very generous with us, to provide their data and let us try something new.”
The experiment paid off.
The results comparing both inversions program around the Méquillon deposit, imprinted in red, are shown below, using Geoscience ANALYST.
”"The Mira Geoscience team presented the results to me in Geoscience ANALYST, with the project built-in with the data and preliminary information we had provided. The new result was very different from the previous result. There was no doubt the SimPEG algorithm resolved our challenging ore body."
- Circé Malo-Lalande, Eng., Senior Geophysicist at Canadian Royalties.
It was a success all around. Circé presented the results to her peers at PDAC 2023, with a great response from her management team. She’s now waiting for another opportunity to run a larger ZTEM survey on Canadian Royalties’ property.
How Geoscience ANALYST Contributed to Success
Of course, these results could not have been possible without Geoscience ANALYST.
“I am a recent user of Geoscience ANALYST Pro and I found it to be very intuitive. And the team at Mira is very generous with their software knowledge,” said Circé. “I was not left alone with the data, and unable to present it!”
As well, the link to SimPEG was key; and is part of Mira’s mandate to provide best-in-class tools to help their customers.
”"Geophysics is a very niche science. The only way for the industry to get better is for everyone to collaborate and work together. We’ve realized the value is not in codes, but in how people use the codes."
- Dominique Fournier, Scientific Programmer at Mira Geoscience.
Geoscience ANALYST also allows users to import and export data in GEOH5, the open-source data structure that is revolutionizing the way geoscience data and models are stored, shared, and visualized. In GEOH5 format, the data is never locked into proprietary software, and any tool (supporting the universal format) can be used to interrogate the data, facilitating interoperability and collaboration among geoscientists.
“Geoscience ANALYST allows that universal format, so you can continue to get more out of your data,” Circé said. “There’s so much you can do with datasets, but often it stops where the technology does. Méquillon is a good example of allowing that same data set to continue to provide insights.”
Circé continued, “There’s a huge amount of geophysical data sets, both airborne and ground, that lie out there on shelves that could be revisited. There’s probably a lot of mines hidden on those shelves.”
Discover this case study's Behind the Scenes: A Technical Deep Dive - Insights from Stanislawa Hickey of Mira Geoscience.
Meet the Contributors
Circé Malo-Lalande, Eng., Senior Geophysicist at Canadian Royalties
Circé received a B.Eng. at Laval University (2001) and a MASc. at École Polytechnique of Montreal (2003) for her work on Applied Time-Domain Electromagnetics. Since 2003, she has developed a wide experience working for Mining Companies, Geophysical Contractor, and Instruments manufacturer. She has been involved with many exploration projects worldwide, at different levels (survey design, acquisition, interpretation, targeting and R&D). Circé is currently Senior Exploration Geophysicist at Canadian Royalties, exploring for Ni-Cu-PGE with a focus on both greenfield and brownfield projects. Aside from her professional activities, Circé has been continuously promoting Geophysics at Collegial and University levels to share her passion with future Geoscientists.
Stanislawa Hickey, P.Geo., Senior Geophysicist at Mira Geoscience
Stanislawa is an experienced geophysicist with over 10 years of experience in 3D modelling, data integration and interpretation, and QA/QC. She is Mira’s leading expert in geologically-constrained geophysical interpretation and inversion of DC/IP data, in addition to her long and varied experience with electromagnetic and potential fields data. She specializes in modelling and integrating complex geophysical data sets for a variety of commodities and deposit styles, from grassroots to near-mine exploration projects around the world. Before working with Mira Geoscience, Stanislawa gathered experience in the field and in geophysical data acquisition working with Frontier Geosciences and Abitibi Geophysics. She has an MSc in Geophysics, Resources and Environment from Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France. Stanislawa is based in Montreal.
Dominique Fourier, Scientific Programmer at Mira Geoscience
Dominique completed his PhD in Geophysics at the University of British Columbia with a focus on advanced magnetic vector inversion for greenfield exploration projects. He was a member of our project consulting team prior to acquiring extensive experience in the development of software for non-linear inverse problems, data integration and clustering, and geological interpretation at UBC. His experience and academic profile provide an ideal background to continue development of our geophysical software. Dominique is based in Vancouver.