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On mapping seafloor mineral deposits with central loop transient electromagnetics

Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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  • Physics


Electromagnetic methods are commonly employed in exploration for land-based mineral deposits. A suite of airborne, land, and borehole electromagnetic techniques consisting of different coil and dipole configurations have been developed over the last few decades for this purpose. In contrast, although the commercial value of marine mineral deposits has been recognized for decades, the development of suitable marine electromagnetic methods for mineral exploration at sea is still in its infancy. One particularly interesting electromagnetic method, which could be used to image a mineral deposit on the ocean floor, is the central loop configuration. Central loop systems consist of concentric transmitting and receiving loops of wire. While these types of systems are frequently used in land-based or airborne surveys, to our knowledge neither system has been used for marine mineral exploration. The advantages of using central loop systems at sea are twofold: (1) simplified navigation, because the transmitter and receiver are concentric, and (2) simplified operation because only one compact unit must be deployed. We produced layered seafloor type curves for two particular types of central loop methods: the in-loop and coincident loop configurations. In particular, we consider models inspired by real marine mineral exploration scenarios consisting of overburdens 0 to 5 m thick overlying a conductive ore body 5 to 30 m thick. Modeling and resolution analyses showed that, using a 50 m(2) transmitting loop with 20 A of current, these two configurations are useful tools to determine the overburden depth to a conductive ore deposit and its thickness. In the most extreme case, absolute voltage errors on the order of 10 nV are required to resolve the base of a 30 m thick ore deposit. Whether such noise floors can be achieved in real marine environments remains to be seen.

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