Ideon Technologies pioneers muon tomography to advance global transition to low-cost mining

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By Imelda Cotton - 
Ideon Technologies muon tomography low-cost mining

Sub-surface intelligence company Ideon Technologies has been named one of the businesses to watch in a ranking of Canadian technology firms with promising growth trajectories.

Deloitte’s Tech Fast 50 awards rank fast-growing public and private technology companies based on percentage revenue increases over the past three years.

Ideon co-founder Gary Agnew credits the company’s early-stage success to a “laser-focus” on accelerating the world’s transition to low-impact mining.

“We use sub-atomic particles to create reliable 3D density maps that help geologists identify, characterise and monitor mineral deposits and sub-surface voids with a level of certainty they have never had before,” he said.

“At a time when the world is facing an $18 trillion supply gap in critical minerals needed to fuel the energy transition, we can help mining companies to see the unseen and target the high-recovery, low-waste deposits that drive reliable and environmentally-responsible supply chains.”

Muon tomography

Ideon is a world pioneer in muon tomography, using the energy from supernova explosions in space to provide x-ray-like visibility down to 1 kilometre beneath the earth’s surface.

In May, the company delivered imaging results from the world’s first borehole muon tomography project for mineral exploration, in co-operation with global uranium producer Orano Group.

The target was Orano’s high-grade and compact McClean Lake uranium deposit in northern Saskatchewan, located at 200 metres depth.

Six borehole muon detectors were deployed down a single drill hole in a connected sequence, delivering progressive imaging results throughout the survey.

Outcomes are reported to have matched McClean Lake’s existing geological model, defining structural trends and mapping broad alterations surrounding uranium mineralisation.

Minor variations in density within the alteration zone correlated spatially with the known mineralisation.

The results demonstrated the effectiveness of the muon technique to image alteration surrounding a high-grade compact, uranium deposit.

Orano said muon could potentially transform the way it explores for uranium.

Ore body knowledge

Ideon is helping the world’s minerals explorers achieve greater certainty in their ore body knowledge (OBK) to precisely target substantial deposits of the critical minerals required to fuel the clean energy transition.

OBK integrates geological, mining, metallurgical, environmental and economic information to create geologically-based predictive models.

Mr Agnew said it would be key to identifying, mapping and producing the 3 billion tonnes of natural resources needed to deploy clean energy technologies such as wind, solar, nuclear and electrification.

“The quality of OBK modelling can make the difference between success and failure of a mining company… many miners currently commit to billion-dollar operational decisions based on limited sub-surface information,” Mr Agnew said.

“As near-surface resources are depleted and the industry is forced to search deeper, mining companies are working with limited information to inform their decision-making… it is a high-cost, high-risk, low-certainty approach.”

Discovery platform

Ideon’s sub-surface discovery platform integrates proprietary detector hardware for downhole and in-mine deployment, imaging systems, multi-physics fusion, inversion technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide high-resolution 3D visibility underground and generate geologic value.

In September last year, the company closed a $24 million Series A funding round with early-stage investment firm Playground Global to accelerate the commercialisation of the platform.

Playground general partner Bruce Leak said the platform was a “radical new approach” to discovering and mining critical minerals.

“Ideon has developed a major technological breakthrough that is being used by the world’s largest mining companies, today,” he said.

“We could not be more excited to partner with a team whose mission is aligned with ours and whose technology is already speeding the transition to a cleaner world.”

Mr Agnew said the investment would allow Ideon to deliver more value, more quickly, to the areas of the mining industry that most need Ideon’s solution.

Industrial affiliate

Earlier this month, Ideon was named an industrial affiliate of Stanford University’s Mineral-X program, which is an exclusive research community uniting the fields of geosciences, resource economics, data science and AI to inform optimal decision-making along the critical minerals supply chain.

The company will engage with Stanford’s faculty and scientists on innovations needed to create a resilient chain for the clean energy transition.

Research will focus on optimising exploration targeting and resource characterisation using advanced data analysis and stochastic modelling to maximise ore body knowledge and reduce the timeline from discovery to production.

The collaboration is expected to yield better knowledge of ore body characteristics; improve mine planning and extensions to mine life; offer more compelling economic outcomes; and generate greater efficiencies across the entire mining value chain.