In the field of minerals exploration automated materials characterization can contribute in several ways to achieve better results. Detailed mineralogical investigations of heavy mineral concentrates from sediments or tills, for example, allow to identify thousands of indicator mineral grains in a short period of time. In contrast to manual mineral identification by a geologist the human error here is very small. In addition to modal mineralogy you will obtain by the analysis the particle size and mineral grain size information, several types of grain shape information as well as information regarding the particle density distribution.
In the field of precious metals exploration automated materials characterization is capable to find very small mineral grains which occur in very low grades in the samples. In contrast to manual scanning electron microscopy work the operator error of the automated analysis in regards to thorough mineral grain detection and accurate mineral identification is very limited.
A further field of application of automated materials characterization in exploration is the analysis of drill core and rock samples. Here the main benefit of the analysis is in the accurate quantification of the modal mineralogy, the elemental distributions, the mineral locking, the mineral association as well as the mineral grain sizes. This assists to characterize the ore or rock type and to assign the samples to certain units or domains. The mineral association and grain size information of the samples helps you to evaluate the material in regards to potential liberation and beneficiation behavior.
Automated materials characterization supports already during the exploration stage the detection and identification of critical trace minerals containing potential penalty elements, such as arsenic, in the samples. In addition it can be used for the accurate identification of alteration minerals. This identification and the subsequent definition of alteration zones is crucial for a successful exploration campaign as some specific alteration zones are distinctive for various ore deposit types.