Over the entire life cycle of a mine, from early resource evaluation to the blasting of benches, the collection of geochemical data is crucial for the site operator, who must routinely and intensively drill and sample the orebody. This produces huge numbers of physical samples, in turn requiring significant cost and time for their preparation and assay. Moreover, despite best efforts, the sample recovery process is prone to error, which limits the quality of data.
The pulsed neutron gamma technique has been used for decades in various industries, in particular oil logging, for its ability to provide direct identification and quantification of elemental concentrations. However, its implementation in logging tools for the mining sector is relatively recent. Built around the latest in technology for optimal spectrometric measurement, a commercial tool referred to as FastGrade™ 100 has been available for a few years and used with increasing success in the mining environment, specifically the iron ore industry, resulting in a reduction in the amount of collected samples. Relying on the physics of neutrons and gamma photons, both of which are particles that penetrate the surrounding bedrock through several tens of centimetres, such spectroscopy tools measure in real-time the composition of a much larger volume than the delimited volume of the drilled material traditionally used for geochemical mapping. Better statistics and reliability of the estimated composition increase the ability to properly and quickly measure drilled holes and allow the substituting of all or part of the sampling and assaying efforts by geochemical log data. Our paper focuses on this technology, known as pulsed fast and thermal neutron analysis (PFTNA). It reviews the main drivers for the design of such a logging tool and discusses how the fundamental characteristics of the technology, in terms of neutrons and gamma interactions, translate into interpretation of the analytical output.
Jeanneau, P, Flahaut, V and Maddever, R A M, 2017. Iron ore benefits from neutron pulsed geochemical tools, in Proceedings Iron Ore 2017, pp 387–396 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).