Case Study: Leapfrog’s use in discovering gold at Amaruq

Agnico Eagle used Leapfrog Geo from the start of their 2016 exploration project and benefitted from Leapfrog’s rapid hypothesising, allowing them to optimise drilling and ultimately make the discovery. Leapfrog usage has since spread to other divisions and provides Agnico Eagle with multiple other benefits.

Amaruq, Kivalliq District, Nunavut Territory, Canada

The Project

The Amaruq project is located in Nunavut, Canada, and was first discovered in 2013 by senior Canadian gold mining company, Agnico Eagle. In 2016 Agnico Eagle discovered the VO zone, which is now one of the three main orebodies of the deposit and will be developed as a satellite to their nearby Meadowbank mine.

Leapfrog was used from the outset of the 2016 project and Agnico Eagle consider it to be a critical component in the discovery of the VO zone. Leapfrog was used to understand the geological context, to plan and optimise drillhole campaigns, to communicate key project stages and to model mineralised wireframes used in resource estimation. Agnico Eagle first started using Leapfrog in 2012 and by 2018 have between 20-25 users.

Senior Geologist 3D modelling, Marjorie Simard, comments,“Amaruq has a complex geological context consisting of several deformation episodes and a lot of folding and faulting. We initially chose Leapfrog because it was easy to use and allowed us to readily display data from a complex dataset. But being able to update Leapfrog regularly with new information was critical in optimising drilling and in ultimately making the discovery.”

Geology

The Amaruq property covers 40 km of the Woodburn Lake Group of Archean supracrustal rocks, the same sequence as at Agnico-Eagle’s nearby Meadowbank mine. This is within the Rae domain of the Western Churchill geological province of the Canadian Shield. These rocks were possibly deposited in a continental rift setting and consist of mafic to ultramafic volcanics interlayered with carbon-rich sedimentary rocks. The rock sequence has since been intruded by granitoid rocks and common lamprophyres and affected by multiple phases of ductile deformation along with metamorphism to greenschist facies and locally to the upper greenschist facies.

Mineralisation

Six zones of gold-bearing quartz-pyrrhotite-arsenopyrite veining/flooding within volcano-sedimentary rocks have been discovered. The I, V, R and Whale Tail zones appear to be offset mineralised corridors striking east-northeast to northeast and dipping moderately to steeply southeast. The Whale Tail deposit, which appears to include up to five main horizons, is the largest discovery so far. The shallowly-dipping V Zone represents a second source of open pit ore at the Amaruq project.

Understanding the geology

Leapfrog was used to help achieve many key project objectives; this initially focused on understanding the geology to optimise the drilling campaign.

Geochemical data identified two main geological domains characterised by different geochemical affinity. These are used as a guide for geological modelling. The Exploration team use an XRF portable device at the Amaruq site to analyse the drillcore. 3D modelling geologists visualize XRF data in Leapfrog and use this to build the geometry of the geological context and to perfect their understanding of the folded geology.

Marjorie explains, At Amaruq, one of the main mineralised zones is very folded and it is difficult to model using other software and difficult to interpret on 2D cross-sections as the geological units are not always perpendicular to the cross sections. With Leapfrog our model is much more geologically realistic and smoother and in 3D we just have to alter the view slightly to see some alignment that would be impossible to view in 2D.”

Marjorie Simard, Agnico Eagle

"We updated the model every week with new data from the drilling campaign, this took me 1-2 days to achieve, which is pretty quick compared to other methods which can take months. This updating was crucial to enable us to optimise drilling.”"

Marjorie Simard Senior Geologist 3D modelling, Agnico Eagle
Optimising drilling

Based on the dimensions and characteristics identified in Leapfrog, the team were able to develop a specific geological 3D unit as a guide to the drilling programme. Drilling was then planned along this 3D shape and led to the discovery of new mineralisation between the two large zones that had already been identified.

This is typical of how Exploration companies use Leapfrog, after one mineralised zone is discovered and explored, they are able to use Leapfrog to successfully identify and drill another adjacent mineralised zone. With Leapfrog they can easily work with their data spatially and improve their model by finding holes in the existing dataset or by looking for trends and unexplored locations to test additional drilling.

During this key exploration period the team used Leapfrog daily to update the database with new drilling information and to quickly view the datasets in 3D. This rapid visualisation of new data, often within a few minutes, allowed the team to discuss how best to optimise drilling in tight timeframes.

Marjorie comments, “We updated the model every week with new data from the drilling campaign, this took me 1-2 days to achieve, which is pretty quick compared to other methods which can take months. This updating was crucial to enable us to optimise drilling.”

Updating data can be problematic and difficult with other software solutions, and they are not ‘hierarchical’ which means they don’t update all other components automatically when something upstream, such as drilling, is added.

Marjorie continues, “Being able to quickly view datasets in 3D was probably the main benefit we derived from Leapfrog. We’re then able to rapidly model different geological units in Leapfrog, this process really helped us with our decision making at this critical time.  It was very exciting, especially when we looked at the core and could see visible gold. Based on our 3D interpretation in Leapfrog, the geological guide helped us to discover the new gold zone.”

- The sedimentary contact (in blue) has been modelled in Leapfrog and used as a guide to target the location of drillholes
- Modelling of the sedimentary contact has helped the discovery of the new V0 zone that is spatially associated with the main contact
Communication tool

Using Leapfrog’s clear visualisation, the team were also able to readily communicate with key stakeholders and involve them in decision making, this included the exploration director and other senior management. This ability to clearly communicate enhances collaboration and contributes to the ongoing successful management of the project.

As an additional aid to communication, Agnico Eagle has also introduced the regular use of Leapfrog’s 3D movie function. The ability to readily create movies allows presenters to be much more effective in explaining detailed projects.

Marjorie explains, “For the last few years, where possible, we like to present our projects with a Leapfrog 3D movie as it gives impact and really showcases our modelling work while clearly demonstrating how we are managing and progressing projects.”

Movies are easy to generate from within modelling projects; scenes are dragged into a storyboard with transitions added automatically. Leapfrog’s movie function delivers a high frame rate of up to 60 frames per second and users can select from a variety of finished resolutions up to full HD.

Marjorie Simard, Agnico Eagle

"For the last few years, where possible, we like to present our projects with a Leapfrog 3D movie as it gives impact and really showcases our modelling work while clearly demonstrating how we are managing and progressing projects.”"

Marjorie Simard Senior Geologist 3D modelling, Agnico Eagle
Resource estimation

Agnico Eagle’s Evaluation project team use Leapfrog to quickly review the potential of a mining project. Thanks to Leapfrog’s user-friendly interface and advanced data handling tools the team are able to easily add a complex data set and quickly visualise in 3D.

Using Leapfrog in this way, the Evaluation team are also able to collaborate with 3D modelling geologists from Technical Services and ask for their input in checking the data in 3D and providing their opinion, this can sometimes lead to new interpretations and further improve understanding. Allowing different teams to easily collaborate allows the cross fertilization of ideas and helps minimise risk, while increasing surety.

Marjorie says, “Since we modelled the zone in Leapfrog we can make a much more precise interpretation of the geometry. This increases our confidence in the resource estimate. I can see us using Leapfrog more in resource estimation as having a good understanding of the geology is essential and being able to generate a quick 3D view is very useful.”

Spread to other divisions

Leapfrog’s use has also spread to other divisions and projects, including Agnico Eagle’s Barsele project in Sweden, where Leapfrog was used to build a geochemical 3D model using geochemical data from ioGAS software. Models created in Exploration and Technical Services are also passed to engineering and the environmental teams for their use in understanding geology and in planning.

Marjorie concludes, “I think in the future we will use Leapfrog more and more because we know from its use at Amaruq that Leapfrog upgrades both the project and our understanding.  We can also use the Leapfrog model in lots of other ways, for instance we can pass it to engineering and to those interested in environmental aspects. Leapfrog makes great models! It’s also quick, easy to use, learn, and update with new data, other software doesn’t offer the range of benefits Leapfrog does.”

Leapfrog offers Agnico Eagle a number of distinct benefits, including:
  • time saving and efficiency gains,
  • the ability to use time saved to better understand the geology and run different hypotheses,
  • the ability to easily incorporate new information as understanding changes,
  • the ability to effectively communicate with powerful visualisation tools, including the movie function.

Heather Ferguson, Seequent’s Regional Director, North America, comments, “It’s great to hear about Leapfrog’s role in the 2016 Amaruq discovery and how it’s helping with more agile decision making at Agnico Eagle. Leapfrog’s speed and ease of use are a real asset in the exploration sector and being able to dynamically update in tight timescales is becoming increasingly essential. And with superior, fast, 3D visualisation users can quickly visualise the orebody, generate new targets and optimise campaigns.”

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