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Rurry Elsa Lorenza

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Geophysical Inversion Modelling


What is Geophysical Inversion Modelling?
Inversion enables resource explorers to extract more insight from geophysical
data by converting geophysical measurements into 3D images of the subsurface
that can be integrated with other surface and subsurface geologic observations.
Insights generated from geophysical inversion have helped to improve prospecting
and focus drill targeting, particularly in deeper and more complex subsurface
environments.
The process of 3D inversion aims to produce the most likely distribution of
physical rock properties that explain what is observed. Three key trends have been
driving exploration companies to use inversion more routinely:
1. The increasingly important role of geophysics as an exploration method for
exploring deeper, at depths of hundreds of metres below the surface.
2. The requirement to reduce the risk of high stakes resource exploration
through efficient assessment of large tracts of ground, predictive multi-
parameter modelling and target delineation.
3. Advances in technology that have reduced the time and effort required to
transform large geophysical data into useful visualizations of the subsurface
through 3D inversion.
What are the basic principles of inversion?
The process of 3D inversion seeks to produce a 3D distribution of physical
rock properties (e.g. density) that explains an observation measured in the field
(e.g. a gravity response). This process is inherently non-unique, and so the
experience of the interpreter and the a priori information used to validate an
inverse model is important.
The forward problem: Forward modelling is the process of calculating a
response (e.g. a gravity measurement) from a given earth model (e.g. a density
distribution). The computation itself may be challenging, but the concept is simple
because when you calculate a forward response, theres only one answer.
Forward modelling is an important step in determining the value of a
particular geophysical survey. Once an exploration team has a good idea of the type
of target they seek, they construct a hypothetical, 3D earth model and calculate
what the response of various types of surveys would be. Some surveys will make
the target easy to see, others wont. The value of forward modelling is that it helps
make wise exploration decisions when planning geophysical surveys.
The inverse problem and non-uniqueness: The opposite of the forward
problem is the inverse problem. Instead of finding the single possible response to a
given earth model, inverse modelling will help determine what 3D distribution of
physical properties yields a measured field response. The catch is that there are
many models that can create the same surface response. This is called non-
uniqueness. For example, a broad dense body close to the surface creates a gravity
response that is similar to a very dense compact body deep in the Earth.
The question becomes: how can you create inversion results that are useful
representations of the subsurface? The
answer lies in other pieces of the puzzle
that are known. Things like overburden
thickness, lithology from drill data, and
borehole assay results. This known
information can help constrain the inverse
problem to a limited number of plausible
models. The subset of models will have certain
commonalities that can then help the
explorer make an interpretation that agrees
with all the pieces of the puzzle (lithology,
geochemistry, and structural information).
The most useful models are the result of
exploring the inversion model space by
running many scenarios with different
constraints and sensitivity to other geological
information. So, new algorithms and faster computers have a huge impact on the
success of geophysical inversion for exploration. Similarly, the ability to easily
integrate and use supplementary information to better constrain the inversion is
critical to producing reliable models.
What is the value of geophysical inversion for resource exploration?
Inversion is applicable at every stage of the exploration program. At the
project generation stage, a 3D inversion of existing gravity or magnetic data can
provide visual clues to what is happening geologically in the subsurface even if
there is no outcrop to be found. At the prospect targeting phase, explorers can use
inversion results to improve their geological models for more effective drill program
planning and follow up. As exploration progresses to the advanced stage, the
inversion process will provide an increasingly accurate picture of structural geology
and their extensions in the subsurface.
How can I maximize my success with geophysical 3D inversion?
Some of the recent advances in inversion, such as VOXI's Iterative
Reweighting Inversion Focusing (IRIF), and Magnetization Vector Inversion (MVI), are
helping to define new targets for global mineral projects. At a gold project in the
Yukon, for example, IRIF is helping geologists reconcile the geophysics with the
geology and identify new drill targets in an area of no outcrop. At a gold-silver mine
in Mexico, inversion modelling is outlining the geometry and depth to skarn
mineralization targets while MVI is solving the problem of magnetic remanence that
can distort traditional magnetic inversions.
In a broader sense, mining companies are using 3D inversion to process large
volumes of geophysical data that would have overwhelmed traditional modelling
technology in order to define the controls on known mining camps and predict
where the next mining camps might lie. By incorporating inversion into their
exploration programs, explorers can reduce the time and effort required to visualize
and understand deeper subsurface environments and they can save on drilling costs
by generating more accurate targets.