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Mineral Exploration

Mineral exploration has not always been a science. Since ancient times, prospectors relying heavily on luck and persistence have successfully discovered ore deposits of all descriptions. The ancient Romans worked every deposit of significance within the bounds of their empire, and it is said in Mexico that if gold and silver ore was at the surface, the Conquistadors found it. This testament to the Spanish obsession with precious metals has led some to conclude that nothing is left to discover, but that does not discourage the modern exploration geologists. They prefer to say that if ore was not at the surface, the Spanish did not find it. And so the search for metal continues in a scientific way with significant discoveries continuing to be made.

Successful mining companies use a systematic approach based upon knowledge gained from the study of previously discovered and developed ore deposits. It allows them to pinpoint likely areas for more intense exploration, and to find even hidden deposits from telltale surface geochemical and geophysical indications, or even through remote sensing from aircraft and satellites. The final exploratory phase involves actual drilling and sampling of the suspected deposit. Only then can the final assessment of economic factors be made and the exploration target classified either as ore or just interestingly mineralized rock, perhaps a future ore if economic conditions change.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Octadecanoate to OvenbirdsOre - History, Formation Of Ore, Igneous Ore Deposits, Hydrothermal Ore Deposits, Sedimentary Ore Deposits - Future developments