Soil-sample geochemistry normalised by class membership from machine-learnt clusters of satellite and geophysics data
Gazley, M and Hood, SB and Cracknell, MJ, Soil-sample geochemistry normalised by class membership from machine-learnt clusters of satellite and geophysics data, Ore Geology Reviews, 139 Article 104442. ISSN 0169-1368 (2021) [Refereed Article]
The primary aim of mineral exploration is to focus the search space from regional scale (1000ásákm2) to prospect scale (1ľ10ákm2), identify areas that warrant further investigation, and ultimately drill a target. Mineral deposits typically display geochemical anomalism related to the conditions of their formation, or the weathering and mass transport of sediment away from a mineral deposit. However, this anomalism can be obscured in soil-sample surveys due to background variations in host bedrock chemistry and the transformation and redistribution of original minerals during surface weathering, regolith development, and supergene processes. This contribution uses machine-learnt map products to aid in the interpretation of a regional-scale soil-sample dataset. ASTER (satellite spectral) data were combined with airborne radiometric data using Self-Organising Maps (SOM) to generate a map of regolith type. A map of bedrock geology was previously derived by the authors from airborne geophysical data using Random Forests. These two products are used to classify soil samples with an objective bedrock-geology and regolith-type classification. A z-score normalisation was implemented on the soil-sample geochemical data, using two different matrices (regolith type and bedrock geology) to remove the bias of bedrock geology and regolith type from the soil sample chemistry. The signal that remains likely reflects metasomatic processes, and associated elemental anomalism, potentially linked to mineralisation. These data can then be plotted to provide maps of (pathfinder) element anomalies, thus identifying potential exploration targets. We explore this approach to normalise geochemical data in a dataset of 9,924 soil samples collected over an area of 1,028ákm2, from Kerkasha, Eritrea (Nubian Shield). The Kerkasha project is an early-stage exploration project, with a limited understanding of the local geology and mineral deposit types; however, it contains many Au and Cu prospects that have received minimal exploration work.