Placer exploration using radar and seismic methods

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 80, No. 898, 1987

J.L DAVIS, A.P. ANNAN and C. VAUGHAN, A-Cubed Inc., Mississauga, Ontario

The increase in the price of gold in the last decade has led to a significant increase in placer gold exploration around the world. Placer deposits occur in depressions along ancient river and stream channels. In many instances these channels have been covered with materials from subsequent erosion or glacial activity. Use of high resolution geophysical techniques to map the bedrock and soil strata can improve the probability of finding the placer deposits. The buried bedrock surface is often the factor controlling deposition. Ground probing radar (GPR) and seismic sounding are complementary high resolution techniques which can be used to map bedrock topography and soil stratigraphy. Current radar instrumentation operates best in coarse grained soils. Penetration depths of up to 30 m have been attained, and stratigraphic horizons have been mapped with spatial resolutions of better than 0.5 m. Although its spatial resolution is considerably lower than radar, seismic refraction achieves superior penetration in electrically conductive environments such as clay and silt soils. The seismic refraction method thus proves to be complementary to the radar method. The seismic reflection technique is analogous to the radar method. Current seismic instrumentation and energy sources however, provide limited spatial resolution and do not permit the use of seismic reflection for reflecting horizons lying at depths of less than 20 m to 30 m. This paper discusses the use of both radar and seismic methods for placer exploration. The radar and seismic techniques, the field methods, equipment, and data displays are presented. Field examples illustrate the high resolution mapping capabilities of the techniques. The radar data agree very well with the borehole data, and in fact they sometimes detect subtle soil strata variations associated with changes of permeability that were not initially observed in the borehole logging. The radar method can give a continuous profile of water table and bedrock in sandy soils. Seismic soundings are necessary to differentiate between the bedrock and water table reflections observed by the radar.
Keywords: Mineral exploration, Placer exploration, Ground probing radar, Geomorphology, Stratigraphy, Seismic sounding, Radar, Data processing.