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The role of land gravity data in the Neves- Corvo mine discovery and its use in present-day exploration and new target generationGold Open Access

Authors: F. Marques, J.X. Matos, P. Sousa, P. Represas, V. Araújo, J. Carvalho, I. Morais, N. Pacheco, L. Albardeiro and P. Gonçalves
Journal name: First Break
Issue: Vol 37, No 8, August 2019 pp. 97 - 102
Special topic: Legacy Data
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 441.49Kb )

Several blind massive sulphide deposits associated with the Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) Volcano-Sedimentary Complex (VSC) (Figure 1) were discovered in SW Iberia using joint interpretation of geo-logical and geophysical models, such as Neves-Corvo (Albouy et al., 1981; Leca et al., 1983) and Lagoa Salgada (Oliveira et al., 1998) in Portugal, and Valverde and Las Cruces in Spain. In the IPB Portuguese sector, the former government agencies Serviço de Fomento Mineiro (SFM) and Instituto Geológico e Mineiro (IGM), as well as LNEG, fostered the acquisition of systematic geophysical surveys, in particular gravimetry, in the region during the second half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, the former SFM carried out detailed ground surveys over N-S for E-W grids with distances between survey stations of 200, 100 and 50 m grid size (Oliveira et al., 1998). This enabled the identification of several potential targets which attracted the interest of important international investors and led to a continuous investment in geophysical research, based on ground and airborne surveys (Matos et al., 2019). The discovery of several massive sulphide deposits, includ-ing the world-classNeves-Corvo Cu-Zn-Sn deposit in 1977 (see location in Figure 1, Albouy et al., 1981; Carvalho et al., 1996; Carvalho et al., 1999; Oliveira et al., 2013) was a direct result of joint efforts of mining companies (a consortium formed by the Soc. Mineira e Metalúrgica de Peñarroya Portuguesa, Soc. Mineira de Santiago/Emp. Mineira e Metalúrgica do Alentejo and Societé d’Études de Recherches et d’Exploitations Minières), and former SFM exploration surveys (Albouy et al., 1981; Leca et al., 1983; Carvalho et al., 1999; Matos et al., 2019). The consortium invested significantly in exploration (Albouy, et al., 1981), namely: processing of the SFM-acquired gravity data (covering an area of 300 km2), collection of new gravity surveys (190 km2), more than 200 km of electric resistivity and magnetic profiles, as well as very-low-frequency (VLF) studies on several drill holes. The Neves-Corvo deposits occur along a NW trend, with seven deposits dispersed in a large complex antiform structure (Carvalho et al., 1996; Araújo and Castelo Branco, 2010; Oliveira et al., 2013). Understanding the geometry of subsurface orebodies requires accurate geological mapping based on surface surveys and/or borehole logging (Matos et al., 2019). The accuracy of the conceived model for geology and ore deposit at Neves Corvo, however, is limited by the sparse geologic outcrops and a biased distribution of drill holes. This has driven an impetus towards acquisition of geophysical data which can be more uniformly sampled and is typically less expensive to collect. Among the different geophysical methods employed, a strong response is expressed within the gravity data. This is the result of the large physical property contrast between high density, massive sulphide deposits and the volcano-sedimentary host rock lithologies (Neves, Corvo, Graça and Zambujal). The uppermost lenses are located in the NE flank of a gently dipping structure (10º-40º NE), at depths between 230 m (Corvo) and 350 m (Neves) (Albouy et al., 1981; Carvalho et al. 1996; Matos et al., 2019). These were therefore the first four orebodies to be discovered, while the gravitational response of the deeper Neves-Corvo mas-sive sulphide lenses were weaker and more difficult to recognize. With less obvious gravitational anomalies to guide exploration at such depths, rock density studies become a key issue in the geophysical characterization of Neves Corvo. In the case of the Semblana deposit (2010, ~800 m depth), ground electromagnetic surveys and extrapolation of favourable geology down dip from the Zambujal area were utilized for exploration in addition to the gravity data (Araujo and Castelo Branco, 2010). The use of gravity for direct detection of massive sulphides in the IPB has limitations. In areas covered by thick Flysch sediments (locally >1 km) where the VSC occurs at greater depths, the gravitational response is weak and more so a function of regional geologic elements. Localized variations in density, such as those caused by high density basic rocks or black shales with dissem-inated pyrite, are common within the VSC sequences. Intense rock weathering, low density siliceous shales or volcanogenic sandstones also contribute to a complex and multi-layered gravity profile. The elevated copper grades of the Neves-Corvo deposits justified more investment in exploration. The possibility of new discoveries with high metal content warranted an extension of exploration research, to explore deeper structures in the area (>>500 m depth). Considerable efforts were exerted in areas such as the Neves-Corvo-Corte Gafo, a 600 km2 polygon located NE of the mine site (Carvalho et al., 1996; Matos et al., 2019). With technical support of the former SFM gravity team, Somincor/Lundin implemented a multidisciplinary programme of gravity and magnetic surveys (9015 points covering an area of 314.5 km2, as well several profiles of transient electromagnetics (TEM, 215.5 km), magne-totellurics (27.0 km) and reflection seismic data (24.0 km). At a regional scale, a multitude of geophysical methods were deployed to characterize specific exploration targets throughout the IPB. These included: deep seismic reflection, electrical resistivity induced polarization, electromagnetic EM 37, pulse electromagnetic, transient electromagnetic, vertical transient elec-tromagnetic, vertical electrical soundings and magnetotellurics. In structurally complex zones, such as the Semblana area (Araujo and Castelo Branco, 2010), down-hole electromagnetic surveys were essential in the identification and delineation of the primary mineralized trends. In the Neves-Corvo region, seismic profiles were used by Lundin/Somincor to define key tectonic structures (Araújo and Castelo Branco, 2010; Inverno et al., 2015; Matos et al., 2019).

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