Already in the old days of goldrushes and oil booms, people were developing structured and effective strategies to cover large areas to find valuable resources. The development of such prospective methods was accelerated by the advent of geophysical research technologies. Over the decades, the geophysicist’s toolbox has expanded from measuring the electric and magnetic fields of the earth in the early days to current-day remote sensing and satellite imagery.
The discovery of (natural) radiation in the early 1900s added another vital technology to this toolbox – naturally occurring radiation was quickly recognized as a valuable tool for finding ores and minerals. Radiation survey systems became available as early as the 1930s and were initially mainly used to search for uranium. It was rapidly recognized that naturally occurring radioactive elements are excellent proxies to discover other valuable ores and minerals. .
In the current era, the search for minerals has shifted away from the hunt for gold and base metals to finding rare earth elements that are key in the energy transition we are all facing. This shift goes hand in hand with a transition to eco-friendly and low-impact mining, which also pushed the “sensorization” of geophysical survey equipment. Back in 2005, Medusa recognized this challenge and started developing a line of gamma-ray survey sensors that could replace the big chunky systems that were the "industry standard" at the time. This has resulted in the highly embedded, low-weight sensors that allow using UAVs for mapping instead of the gas-guzzling helicopters needed for the old-day systems.
Drone-borne gamma-ray mapping nowadays is used routinely, not only for prospecting new concessions but also for the maintenance and monitoring of existing mines and their effect on the environment. A nice example of such an application is a study involving drone-borne mapping of old uranium mine tailings in Uzbekistan using an MS-700 sensor.
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