Conrad Wright
TerraCore International
Joseph Guzman
Joseph Guzman
International Business Development Director
View from the Top

Hyperspectral Imaging Showing Full Potential

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 14:00

Q: How would you rate Mexico in terms of its adoption of hyperspectral inspection?

JG: Mexico has adopted a well-designed hyperspectral program at the highest levels, and has truly understood the value of this technological resource. The country now has the leading hyperspectral program in the world. The government acquired the right technology, a hyperspectral sensor for airborne and a terrestrial sensor for core scanning. Investing in this technology is helping it to understand the minerology nationwide. Conrad and I have travelled all over the world and we are yet to see any country that can top the commitment Mexico has made to hyperspectral imaging

Q: Most such technologies require prior characterization of elements to compare analytical results. How vast is your current data of mineral hyperspectral signatures?

CW: Our current database is extremely vast, but there are other methods that use our technology besides library matching, which has been a traditional means of analyzing data against a known library. However, we also see tremendous applications and value in utilizing the data as the library, and interpreting the data from there. This provides a far more detailed analysis, and allows us to provide a client with their library, versus a library that is owned by the United States Geological Service. We have our own library with an unbelievable amount of spectral for different parts of the world. The problem with a library is that as chemistries change, so will signatures. This means that a kaolinite signature in Mexico may look slightly different than in another part of the world, so using the data as its own library is a far more in-depth way of utilizing the full volume of available data.

Q: To what extent is SGM looking to TerraCore to help map Mexico in a way that has not been done before?

CW: Interestingly enough, SGM has a decade-old system that, instead of imaging the entire width of the core, images a small section. It is a quality system but, due to staff turnover, they have lost internal knowledge on how to deal with the system, the data, and the analytics. That is normal for governments. We can take data from their system, provide products, and go back and provide training to develop sustained internal capability. This will allow them to do their own database gathering. We can also help them with the daunting processing of this data. Governments also traditionally own the data as the research is done through public tenders and using public funds. We are perfectly happy with that as we understand the rationale behind it. We have different tiers of products at different prices, where the client can get the data and the products or just get access to the products. We have two clients, one of which is a major producer, to which we lease the hardware on a monthly basis so they can organize and collect the data themselves. They then turn over mountains of data to us and we output the products they have requested for the needed applications.

Q: How challenging is it to convince juniors to spend money on hyperspectral imaging?

JG: Introducing technology like this to a group of clients that have rudimentary knowledge of what it can do is difficult. The learning curve they have to undergo is a lengthy process, and it has taken several years to get traction with clients, both on the exploration and the production side, and introduce airborne hyperspectral surveys. Companies are starting to notice that this database can be an asset, especially to juniors who are looking to sell the property. Companies are noticing the value because, when buying a property, a company would traditionally redo every drill hole on the property, adding huge costs.

CW: We have been doing free pilots and demos for a wealth of exploration companies. This helps them understand what this technology means. On the exploration side, we have a recent client which has a US$500,000 project with us. It estimates that hyperspectral imaging will reduce the drilling to be done in the next three years to the tune of US$15 million in savings.

Q: How does TerraCore’s Core Image Spectrometer (CIS) help geologists find pathfinder elements that suggest where a nearby deposit may be?

CW: We have the ability to map many different minerals. When that is combined with geochemistry and elemental analysis, you start to understand lithology and alterations along with that, which inherently leads you to associate mineralogy with path finding mineralogy. That is the impetus behind our partnership with ALS Minerals. We have created a custom product for ALS which its clients can use to view our products against their geochemistry in a single online platform. Our statistical products immediately import into Vulcan, Leapfrog, and MineSight, creating a 3D visualization. With this, companies can look at the bigger picture and fully interpret what is going on.

Q: What have been the advantages of your collaboration with ALS Minerals, specifically in terms of combining spectral mineralogy images with geochemical data?

CW: Two major advantages are that you get to view it with geochemistry which is a widely accepted tool that geologists use. Secondly, the amount of requests that come through with them trying to understand our technology has been pretty substantial. This is combined with the fact that they are a trusted lab for providing a traditional data set of high quality.

Q: What are the key measures that SpecTIR puts in place to ensure a flight produces quality data?

JG: Our operators are very experienced in ensuring that flights are done correctly line by line as the data is being collected. They take care of the signal to noise ratio in the air in real time. Our operators will fly a line, and as the pilot is turning around, they are doing their quality assurance and control to make sure that the line is right. If not, they go back and do it again. Through the partnership that we have established with SGM, we have trained them on how to do the same. It was through our training that they acquired the knowledge to operate independently of us.