Sustainable Mineral Exploration in the EU

© Robert De La Rosa


INFACT collects airborne electromagnetic data in Spain

The EU-funded INFACT project aims to combine the development and test of innovative, non-invasive mineral exploration technologies with an assessment of their societal acceptance. Therefore, the “Horizon 2020“project targets the development of first-of-its-kind European “reference sites” for non-invasive mineral exploration technologies in three EU countries. In April 2019 the INFACT project launched an airborne electromagnetic (AEM) campaign in the South of Spain to collect new geoscientific data of the area. As part of the project consortium, a research team from the Fraunhofer IAO supported the actions, from a technology management perspective.

Geophysical surveys throughout Europe

AEM is a non-invasive testing technique that can detect variations in the electrical conductivity of rocks, sediments, and waters to a depth of several hundred meters. Starting in summer 2018 the INFACT consortium conducted a series of airborne electromagnetic (AEM) surveys in Finland and Germany and kicked off their Spanish AEM surveys in April 2019. The AEM data will be integrated into further collected datasets to build a strong knowledge of the under-cover geology.

The surveys in Spain were led by Geotech Ltd. in collaboration with Atalaya Mining, Cobre Las Cruces, Aarhus Geophysics, Geognosia and coordinated by the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology.

Atalaya Mining Geologist and representatives from Fraunhofer IAO – both partners of INFACT - exploring the activities of the historical Rio Tinto mine.
© Leila Ajjabou

Atalaya Mining Geologist and representatives from Fraunhofer IAO – both partners of INFACT - exploring the activities of the historical Rio Tinto mine.

Societal perception of mineral exploration

Parallel to the data collection, the INFACT project organized two public events nearby the reference area in Andalusia, enabling the public to follow live geoscience data acquisition. Additionally, consortium members met with professionals from the mining and exploration sector and regional institutions.

The engagement activities are in line with a stakeholder engagement process developed by the INFACT consortium to support societal acceptance of mining and mineral exploration.

Fraunhofer IAO: building an infrastructural basis to improve technological readiness

As an INFACT consortium member, the research team of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO takes on a technology management role and supports the reference site activities by analyzing and developing ways to generate competitive advantages with an impact on success for the technological development and the social engagement. By doing so, the Fraunhofer IAO aids on building an infrastructural basis to improve technical readiness through real-life testing. During the campaign in Spain, the team members were eager to generate a fundamental understanding of the technological aspects as well as of the social activities performed. Experiencing the next generation of exploration methods and processes that will facilitate the search for ore deposits at first hand generated plenty of new insights and ideas on ways to build a holistic approach that covers the technological challenges and opportunities while balancing the requirements set by society.

The team of the Fraunhofer IAO will continue its work with further INFACT project partners during the upcoming years to significantly add to the development of a support structure for modern exploration.