Geophysical Exploration

Developing a New Geophysical Exploration Technique for Mining Exploration

AAPS and its industry collaborator, Breakwater Resources, have demonstrated that muon tomography can successfully identify ore bodies underground. This has directly led to project co-funding of $1.8 million from Western Economic Diversification.

AAPS is pursuing a novel imaging technology for identifying mineral deposits. Muon geotomography uses naturally occurring cosmic ray muons—subatomic particles that penetrate through the atmosphere and deep into the earth. The penetrating power of muons depends on the amount of the material through which they pass. Detectors placed underground monitor the number of muons reaching them and advanced software algorithms create 3D images of dense mineral deposits. This technique results in images similar to those obtained from CAT scans in medical imaging.


The innovation lies in the development of special sensors and software to produce images of density variations in the overlying rock. These dramatic 3D representations show the location of high-density mineral deposits deep within the earth.


Example of a 3D density map


Commercial Applications

Mining is one of Canada’s largest industries in terms of job creation and economic impact. Muon-based geotomography addresses many of the current challenges and limitations in mineral exploration. The technology could increase the success of exploration while at the same time making it less expensive and reducing its environmental impact.

Schematic representation of muon geotomography



This project is an excellent example of the collaborations required to successfully develop, demonstrate, and ultimately commercialize new breakthrough technologies. We gratefully acknowledge our collaborators: TRIUMF, UBC Geophysical Inversion Facility, Geological Survey of Canada, BC Ministry of Energy and Mines (British Columbia Geological Survey), Western Economic Diversification, NVI Mining / Breakwater Resources and Bern University.

“Because this technology has the potential to detect and image deposits at depth, it will refine the exploration search area which will reduce the amount of expensive drilling required and further efforts to minimize environmental impact.”  Rick Sawyer, NVI-Breakwater