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Planning I/UCRC Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models

Abstract

Mining is intrinsic to modern society's transition to a sustainable existence. Meeting the global demand for earth resources represents a grand challenge for modern society. The Industry-University Cooperative Research Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models is a collaborative effort between Colorado School of Mines, Virginia Tech, and industry partners. The planning meeting for this Center, for which this award provides support, focused on developing an integrated approach to locating, characterizing, and visualizing mineral deposits and other earth resources to meet this grand challenge. The intellectual foundation for this Center stems from the unique cross-disciplinary collaborations that have been assembled at the Colorado School of Mines and Virginia Tech including melding expertise in the traditional geoscience disciplines of mineralogy, geochemistry, petrology, economic geology, and geophysics with those in temporal spatial statistics, inverse theory, numerical methods, high performance computing, seismic imaging and inversion, tomographic imaging, and petrophysics. The Center's activities will transform the way geoscience data are used in the exploration and mining industry sector, beginning with the initial mineral exploratoration stage and continuing through mine closure and environmental remediation. Research activities of the Center will fundamentally change the way global exploration and mining of natural resources is currently done, replacing industry experience- and empiricism-based decisions with innovative science and technology-based solutions that inform decision making, increase the chances of exploration success, and reduce financial risk. The goals of the Center will promote socio-economic prosperity and help to reduce the environmental impact of mining. Workforce development is an essential component of the Center activities and will include graduate and undergraduate students, and industry employee participation in research activities and training opportunities. It is anticipated that graduates of the Center will acquire intellectual breadth that will transfer to the mining workforce and this expertise will be essential for the coming transformations that are reshaping the industry. The Center will strengthen and promote cross-disciplinary discoveries in geophysics, geochemistry, mineralogy, computational science and statistics. The Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models is focused on advancing the exploration/mining industry sector through the establishment of a cooperative industry-university-National Science Foundation partnership that conducts pre-competitive research and workforce development programs of benefit to industry, academia, and society. The purpose and long-term vision of this Center is directed toward research challenges in the development of 3-D subsurface geologic models for mineral deposits, particularly as these models integrate diverse geoscience data, to inform decision making and minimize geological risk, beginning with locating and mining subsurface earth resources and continuing through mine closure and environmental remediation. Four research thrusts are envisioned: (1) development of novel geophysical and geochemical instrumentation, analysis and interpretation methods for enhanced characterization of rock properties; (2) integration, scaling, and inversion of diverse geological, petrophysical, and geophysical data types of dissimilar spatial resolution and distribution to identify and characterize subsurface earth resources; (3) development of information methodologies for reducing risk associated with decision making; and (4) computational imaging and visualization and development of graphical and exploratory data analysis solutions and visualization tools. Achieving this broad vision requires collaboration of researchers from a broad range of disciplines, including but not limited to economic geologists, geophysicists, statisticians, and computational mathematicians. Complementary expertise in these areas brings Colorado School of Mines and Virginia Tech together with industry partners in an innovative partnership to form a Center focused on the mining sector. With regard to the value that Virginia Tech brings, it has a large and established community of researchers working on the development and applications of computational imaging to applied problems. Research specialties include inverse theory, numerical methods, high performance computing, seismic acquisition, seismic imaging and inversion, tomographic imaging, and petrophysics. In addition, Virginia Tech is home to the largest Mining and Minerals Engineering Department in the country, as well as one of the strongest inverse problems communities in the nation, and strong cross-college expertise in seismology.

People

Funding Source

Div Of Industrial Innovation & Partnersh

Project Period

2017-2018