3D inversion of SPECTREM and ZTEM airborne electromagnetic data from the Pebble Cu-Au-Mo porphyry deposit, Alaska


Geological, geochemical, and geophysical surveys have been conducted in the area of the Pebble Cu–Au–Mo porphyry deposit in south-west Alaska since 1985. This case study compares three dimensional (3D) inversion results from Anglo American’s proprietary SPECTREM 2000 fixed-wing time-domain airborne electromagnetic (AEM) and Geotech’s ZTEM airborne audio-frequency magnetics (AFMAG) systems flown over the Pebble deposit. Within the commonality of their physics, 3D inversions of both SPECTREM and ZTEM recover conductivity models consistent with each other and the known geology. Both 3D inversions recover conductors coincident with alteration associated with both Pebble East and Pebble West. The high grade CuEqn 0.6% ore shell is not consistently following the high conductive trend, suggesting that the SPECTREM and ZTEM responses correspond in part to the sulphide distribution, but not directly with the ore mineralization. As in any exploration project, interpretation of both surveys has yielded an improved understanding of the geology, alteration and mineralization of the Pebble system and this will serve well for on-going exploration activities. There are distinct practical advantages to the use of both SPECTREM and ZTEM, so we draw no recommendation for either system. We can conclude however, that 3D inversion of both AEM and ZTEM surveys is now a practical consideration and that it has added value to exploration at Pebble.

Key words: 3D, AEM, AFMAG, inversion, Pebble, SPECTREM, ZTEM.

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