Key milestones of the first successful year of the MinExTarget project

The MinExTarget project that aims to develop a new tool for mineral exploration, just delivered its first annual report outlining the major achievements and results from the first year of the project. The project is funded by EIT RawMaterials.

New ore deposits supplying raw materials for our societies and supporting the green energy transition are becoming more and more difficult to find. The industry needs new tools for exploration because undiscovered mineral deposits are partly or completely buried and reside deeper in the crust.

The MinExTarget project was created with the aim of developing a new exploration tool, which provides better targeting capacities in the early stages of mineral exploration. The MinExTarget tool identifies and interprets secondary footprints of ore deposits preserved by heavy minerals in glacial, stream and shallow marine sediments. The project has just delivered its first annual report outlining the achievements and results from the first year of the project.

Establishing MinExTarget Ltd.

One of the most significant results of the first year was the establishment of MinExTarget Ltd. in December 2020 for the purpose of ensuring the successful commercialisation of the new service developed for mineral exploration.

The establishment of the MinExTarget Ltd. was not a part of the original plan for the project. But we realised quite early on that the best setup for the commercialisation of the results of the MinExTarget project would be the establishment a spin-off company, which will be responsible for selling the new exploration services developed by the project. The development of the business is also supported by the involvement of Oulu University Business School in the project.

Project Manager Juha Kaija, Geological Survey of Finland

Uncovering mineral potential in new test areas

Another important result from the first year was the setting up test areas in Greenland, Norway, Finland and Poland and the start of the development of sample preparation and analytical protocols in those areas.

Test areas were carefully selected to cover a broad range of commodities (Au, Cu Co, Sn, W, Ni) and deposit types.

The project aims to develop a versatile tool for exploration: not restricted to a specific case study but applicable in many areas worldwide. Therefore, it is important to test its performance in a variable geological environment and international cooperation is crucial to succeed.

Professor Adam Piestrzyński, AGH University of Science and Technology

In 2020, we established heavy mineral separates sample banks of our test areas and completed follow-up field sampling campaign in some of those areas. We also defined several sample preparation protocols for the purpose of automated mineralogy and mass spectroscopic analyses and started experiments for evaluation of the time and cost efficiencies of those protocols.

Scientific Coordinator Professor Ferenc Molnár, Geological Survey of Finland

However, the project was also challenged by the current COVID-19 pandemic as Molnár explains:

The testing of various sample preparation methods and their optimisation for the purpose of automated mineralogy requires some mobility of researchers between laboratories. Unfortunately, mobility was restricted due to the COVID-19 regulations in 2020 and therefore several laboratory visits and related analytical work had to be re-planned and partly shifted to 2021.

Scientific Coordinator Professor Ferenc Molnár, Geological Survey of Finland

Incorporating educational aspect

A third major milestone of 2020 was the hiring of several MSc students, PhD students and postdoctoral researchers not only in the field of geosciences but also in business development. All students and young professionals started their work at either the University of Oulu (Finland), the Arctic University of Norway, the AGH University of Science and Technology (Poland) or the Geological Survey of Finland.

MinExTarget includes a strong educational component by introducing MSc and PhD students and post-doctoral researchers to the methodology and its innovation potential. The whole educational approach addresses the development needs of graduates and professionals in the raw materials sector and supports the transformation of ideas into businesses by combining leading technology development with entrepreneurship education.

Professor Pertti Sarala, Oulu University Mining School

In addition, the Arctic University of Norway started developing and organising a short course on “Fingerprinting techniques in ore exploration”, which is designed as a professional training course with practical exercises. The course is funded by EIT RawMaterials under the EIT RawMaterials Academy programme.

The course is scheduled for June 2021 with a duration of five days. Depending on the status of COVID-19 restrictions, participation in the course will be possible both physically and online.

Professor Sabina Strmic-Palinkas from the Arctic University of Norway.

There are also webinars and workshops scheduled for the fall of 2021.

Ensuring dissemination and communication

To ensure effective and impactful communication and dissemination, the Dissemination and Communication plan, involving also the branding of the MinExTarget project with a logo and presentation templates, was created during the first year of the project.

Dissemination and communication tools like the project webpage, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts were also established. The project webpage was established as an important distribution channel to introduce the MinExTarget project and to communicate the project’s news and outcomes.

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