Pioneering Greenfield Mining. Part 2: Initial Site Identification and Preliminary Research 1

Welcome back to our series, “Pioneering Greenfield Mining: Your Journey from Exploration to Operation.” In our first instalment, we set the foundation, familiarising ourselves with the global mining industry, the life cycle of a mine, and the allure of greenfield projects. Now, as we embark on the second leg of our journey, we delve into the initial, yet crucial, phase of greenfield mining projects: site identification and preliminary research.

This article, “Initial Site Identification and Preliminary Research,” spotlights the first significant step towards launching a greenfield mining project. As aspiring miners or stakeholders, understanding the importance of this stage is key. It is at this point that potential mining sites are identified, and preliminary research is conducted to evaluate if the site holds the potential for a viable mining project.

Choosing the right site is akin to laying the cornerstone for a building. It significantly influences the course of the project, affecting exploration strategies, investment decisions, feasibility, and even the operational methods that may be employed in the future. It’s a decision embedded with technical complexities, geological considerations, regulatory obligations, and, of course, environmental and social impacts.

Simultaneously, preliminary research provides an initial understanding of the site’s potential, often involving desktop studies, geological mapping, and remote sensing before any on-ground exploration work is undertaken. It forms the basis of all future exploration work, acting as a compass, guiding the direction of all subsequent activities.

Join us as we navigate the significance of site identification and unpack the essence of preliminary research. By the end of this article, you will gain the knowledge and understanding to make informed decisions at this critical stage of pioneering a greenfield mining project. Stay tuned, as this is just the beginning of our in-depth exploration into the world of greenfield mining.

The Importance of Initial Site Identification

Selecting the right site for a greenfield mining project can be compared to laying the cornerstone for a building: it’s a critical first step that lays the groundwork for everything that follows. The significance of initial site identification cannot be overstated as it affects virtually every aspect of the mining project, from exploration strategies and investment decisions to operational methods and project feasibility. Making a well-informed site selection is the first tangible step towards the success of a greenfield mining project.

So, what factors influence site selection in a greenfield mining project?

Firstly, geological considerations take center stage. A potential site must have the right geology to host the mineral or group of minerals you are interested in. Geologists and exploration teams look for clues in the geological settings that may suggest the presence of a mineral deposit. This could involve studying regional and local geological maps, examining existing geological data, and looking for characteristic rock types and structures that are associated with specific minerals.

Secondly, access to the site is crucial. A site that’s difficult to reach or operate in can add significantly to the project’s costs and timeline. Factors such as proximity to transport links, the terrain, climate conditions, and the availability of resources like water and electricity can greatly influence the choice of site.

The third consideration is the regulatory environment. The site must be in a jurisdiction where mining is legally permitted, and the process to obtain mining rights and necessary permits is feasible. Each country, and often regions within countries, have their own set of mining laws and regulations, which can greatly influence the choice of location.

Fourthly, potential environmental and social impacts are a key consideration. Any prospective site must be evaluated for its potential impacts on the local environment and communities. Today, environmental stewardship and social responsibility are not just regulatory requirements but are also essential for gaining investor confidence and social license to operate.

Lastly, the economic feasibility of mining the site is a decisive factor. The site should have the potential to host a deposit that can be mined economically. Factors influencing this include the potential size and grade of the deposit, the depth at which it is located, the method of extraction, and current market prices for the mineral.

While this is a challenging phase that requires a blend of knowledge from various disciplines, including geology, engineering, environmental science, and finance, a well-chosen site is the first step towards a potentially successful mining venture. In the next section, we will explore how preliminary research aids in identifying a suitable site and setting the stage for more detailed exploration.

Preliminary Research: Understanding the Site

Before boots hit the ground, a significant amount of work is done from behind the desk. This stage of the process, often called the desktop study, is where potential sites are identified and researched, providing a wealth of information that can be used to prioritize and plan future exploration efforts.

The desktop study starts with the collection and review of available geological data. Geological maps, reports, academic research, and previous exploration data, if available, are studied to understand the regional and local geology of the potential site. The objective is to identify geological structures, formations, or trends that could indicate the presence of mineralization.

At this stage, remote sensing techniques also come into play. Satellite imagery and aerial photographs can provide valuable information about the site’s surface characteristics and topography. Advanced remote sensing techniques such as spectral imaging can even help identify the presence of certain minerals on the surface. Similarly, geophysical data, such as magnetic or gravity surveys, can give clues about the subsurface geology and potential mineralization.

Another critical aspect of preliminary research is understanding the legal and regulatory environment. This involves researching the mining laws of the jurisdiction, understanding the process and requirements for obtaining mining rights, and identifying any potential legal or regulatory hurdles.

Environmental and social factors also play a vital role at this stage. Desktop studies can identify key environmental considerations, such as protected areas, endangered species, or other sensitive ecosystems. Similarly, an initial assessment of potential social impacts, such as the presence of local communities, land ownership and use, and cultural or heritage sites, is conducted.

Economic factors are also considered. Market studies provide insights into the potential profitability of extracting the targeted mineral. Also, preliminary estimates of the cost involved in exploring and developing the site can be made based on factors such as site accessibility, terrain, and infrastructure needs.

The preliminary research phase is a crucial step in the mining life cycle. It helps to de-risk the project by identifying potential challenges and opportunities early on and informs the design of more detailed exploration work. It’s the detective work that paves the way for the more adventurous phase of the journey: field exploration. In the following section, we’ll delve deeper into this exciting stage.

Geological Considerations in Site Identification

Understanding the geology of a prospective site is one of the most critical factors in the initial identification phase of a greenfield mining project. Geology guides the exploration process, dictating where to look for minerals and what techniques to use. Moreover, the geological characteristics of a site can significantly impact the economic feasibility of a mining project. So, let’s delve deeper into the geological considerations vital in site identification.

First and foremost, we look for signs of mineralization. This involves understanding the geological processes that form different types of mineral deposits and recognizing the geological features associated with these processes. For example, gold deposits can form in various geological settings, such as in quartz veins formed by hydrothermal processes, or in sedimentary layers due to the action of water over millions of years. Recognizing the signs of these processes in the geological record can help pinpoint promising areas for exploration.

The type and grade of the mineral are other crucial considerations. Certain types of minerals are only found in specific geological environments, and the grade, or concentration of mineral in the rock, can significantly influence the potential profitability of a mining project. For instance, a site with high-grade gold mineralization might be economically viable even if the volume of mineral is relatively small.

The geology can also influence the mining method. Some minerals are found in concentrated deposits close to the surface, suitable for open-pit mining, while others occur in veins deep underground, requiring more expensive and complex underground mining methods.

Understanding the geology also helps assess potential challenges that might arise during the exploration and extraction processes. These can include issues such as the presence of groundwater, the stability of the rock, or the potential for environmentally harmful substances, such as acid-generating sulphides, to be present.

Geophysics is another tool that can be invaluable in site identification. Geophysical methods use the physical properties of rocks, such as magnetism, density, or electrical conductivity, to detect anomalies that could indicate mineralization. For instance, magnetic surveys can be used to map variations in the earth’s magnetic field caused by magnetic minerals, pointing to potential mineral deposits.

While geological considerations form the bedrock of initial site identification, integrating these insights with other factors like legal, environmental, social, and economic considerations makes the process more holistic and robust. The fusion of these factors is what sets successful mining projects apart, and it’s what we aim to guide you through in this series. Up next, we delve into the exciting world of field exploration, where the real adventure begins.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

While geological considerations form the foundation of initial site identification, understanding the legal and regulatory landscape is equally critical for the success of a greenfield mining project. Every region, country, and often specific jurisdictions within countries, have their own set of mining laws and regulations. Navigating this legal labyrinth is essential for obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, maintaining compliance, and avoiding legal complications.

One of the primary legal aspects you need to understand is the process of obtaining exploration rights. Exploration rights grant you the permission to explore a particular area for mineral deposits. The process to secure these rights can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. It typically involves submitting an application to the relevant government authority, meeting certain eligibility requirements, and paying fees or posting a bond. Ensuring that you have secured the right to explore an area before initiating exploration activities is critical.

Land tenure is another important legal consideration. In many jurisdictions, the mineral rights and surface rights are separate, meaning that owning the land does not necessarily grant you the rights to the minerals beneath it. Understanding the land ownership and tenure system in your target area can help avoid conflicts with landowners and local communities. This can also influence the access to the site, the potential for land acquisition, and the responsibility for any environmental impacts.

Local, national, and international laws and regulations will have a bearing on your project. These can cover a wide range of aspects, from environmental regulations to labor laws, safety standards, taxation, royalties, reporting requirements, and closure obligations. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in penalties, delays, and damage to the project’s reputation. It’s also worth noting that regulations can change over time, requiring ongoing compliance management.

In addition to these, social license to operate is becoming increasingly important in the mining industry. Although not a legal requirement, gaining the acceptance and trust of local communities and other stakeholders can significantly impact the smooth operation of a mining project. Effective stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility initiatives can help earn this social license.

Understanding the legal and regulatory environment is not an easy task, especially for newcomers to the mining industry. It’s often advisable to engage legal experts and consultants with local knowledge to guide you through this process. However, a basic understanding of these aspects can help you ask the right questions and make informed decisions.

Having discussed the geological and legal considerations in initial site identification, let’s move on to an equally important aspect – environmental and social considerations, and how they shape the feasibility of a greenfield mining project.

Environmental and Social Considerations

When it comes to pioneering a greenfield mining project, understanding the potential environmental and social impacts from the outset is paramount. Not only are these considerations ethically important, but they are also key to the long-term sustainability and acceptance of the mining project.

From an environmental standpoint, mining activities can have a significant impact on local ecosystems. These can range from alterations to the landscape, soil erosion, deforestation, and degradation of local water bodies, to the creation of noise and dust, which may affect local wildlife. As a part of preliminary research, it’s crucial to assess the potential environmental footprint of the proposed mining activities.

Regulations in many jurisdictions require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before granting the necessary permits for mining. The EIA is a process that identifies and evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and suggests mitigation measures to minimize these impacts. Starting this process early in site identification can inform the feasibility of the project and guide site-specific exploration planning.

In parallel to environmental considerations, potential social impacts of a mining project should also be evaluated. Mining activities can bring about changes in local communities and have a direct impact on people’s lives. They can lead to displacement, impact local livelihoods, and alter social dynamics. Therefore, understanding these potential impacts, engaging with local communities, and considering their concerns is critical.

Many jurisdictions and international guidelines encourage or require a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) as part of the planning process for a mining project. Similar to an EIA, the SIA aims to identify and mitigate potential social impacts. It evaluates the proposed project’s effects on local communities and involves consultation with these communities.

Attaining a ‘social license to operate’ has become a crucial factor in the mining industry. This refers to the ongoing acceptance and approval of a project by local communities and other stakeholders. Achieving a social license often requires demonstrating respect for local customs, showing transparency in operations, contributing to local economic development, and maintaining open communication channels.

In short, considering environmental and social aspects in the initial stages of site identification can guide decision-making, assist in gaining necessary approvals, and contribute to the project’s long-term success. After all, a truly successful mining project is one that is not only economically viable but also environmentally responsible and socially accepted.

With these important considerations in mind, let’s explore the next step in the journey towards pioneering a greenfield mining project – the Preliminary Fieldwork.


In this second article of our series, “Pioneering Greenfield Mining: Initial Site Identification and Preliminary Research,” we delved into the first critical steps in launching a greenfield mining project. We started by exploring the importance of initial site identification, underscoring its crucial role in setting the stage for a successful mining project. Here, factors such as geological potential, geographical location, infrastructure accessibility, and topographical considerations play pivotal roles.

We then moved on to discuss the initial understanding of the site’s potential through preliminary research methods like desktop studies, geological mapping, and remote sensing. These early investigations help to lay the groundwork for more intensive exploration work later.

Our journey continued with a deeper dive into the geological considerations in site identification, discussing how understanding the site’s geology can indicate the potential for economically viable mineral deposits.

We also discussed the importance of understanding the legal and regulatory environment. Gaining the necessary exploration rights, understanding land tenure issues, and complying with local, national, and international laws are all crucial to the smooth operation of a greenfield mining project.

Lastly, we stressed the importance of early consideration of potential environmental and social impacts. This foresight aids not only in meeting ethical standards and regulatory requirements but also in earning the social license to operate, contributing significantly to the project’s long-term success and acceptance.

In the grand scheme of a greenfield mining project, these initial steps of site identification and preliminary research are fundamental in paving the way forward. They help to avoid potential pitfalls, inform strategic planning, and lay a solid foundation upon which the subsequent stages of the project can be built.

As we continue our series, our next stop is the exploration phase. This stage represents the bridge between the preliminary research and the actual commencement of the mining project. We’ll delve into the techniques used in this phase, the data that needs to be collected, and how to interpret this data to inform decisions about whether to proceed with a mining project. Stay with us as we further unravel the complexities of pioneering a greenfield mining project.