Critical Minerals Smart Detection

Critical Minerals Smart Detection

Driven by a steadfast commitment to resource optimization and pioneering solutions, Xcalibur Smart Mapping has embarked on a mission to explore critical minerals. This endeavor not only addresses the escalating demand for these elements but also aligns with Xcalibur’s dedication to delivering cutting-edge products and services that propel industrial and technological progress. We take proactive measures to address ever-evolving global challenges and facilitate the transition to renewable energy sources.

A critical mineral is a metallic or non-metallic element that is essential for modern technologies, economies, or national security, and has a supply chain at risk of disruption.

Critical minerals are essential for a very large range of modern technologies and applications, including:

  • In advanced technologies including mobile phones, computers, fibre-optic cables, semi-conductors, defense, aerospace, and medical applications.
  • In low-emission technologies for the transition to renewable energy, such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, and rechargeable batteries.
  • In more common products such as stainless steel, corrosion protection, electronics.

The idea of defining critical minerals is not new, with many countries having a critical minerals list in the early 20th century, to prioritize sourcing minerals for use in military equipment during WWI.

However, access to critical minerals has become an increasingly widespread and urgent issue as more nations and industries make the transition to renewable energy. The transition is rapidly increasing demand for resources, while (actual or perceived) risks to critical mineral supply chains, due to domination of mineral production or processing is by individual countries or companies, geological scarcity, climate change, political decisions, natural and man-made disasters, pandemics, social unrest, and war, are seen to be similarly increasing.


Ranking the criticality of minerals is subjective and individual countries develop their own lists of critical minerals based on their industrial and strategic requirements. The lists are also constantly changing as supply and demand dynamics change, however there is a shared concern for minerals whose unavailability would slow down the energy transition, as seen in the intersecting lists below.


Critical Minerals to China, European Union, and United States (Ref: Visual Capitalist 30 Nov 2023)

Critical Mineral deposits occur in a wide range of geological settings and locations. As the search for critical minerals intensifies, most of the shallower and simpler to find resources have been discovered and exploited. Remaining resources are often buried more deeply or are otherwise more difficult to find. Exploration for these deposits, requires better quality information on sub-surface geology. Airborne geophysical technologies can add significant value to exploration programs, particularly where the targets are under cover, or otherwise challenging.

Gravity, gravity gradiometry, electromagnetic, magnetic and radiometric techniques can all add value to critical mineral projects, depending on the target and host lithologies and structures, depth and scale of target.

Xcalibur Smart Mapping provide the most advanced airborne geophysical technologies, with the highest spatial resolution, sensitivity to target, lowest noise and greatest depth of exploration.

Our cutting-edge airborne geophysical technologies are integral tools in efficiently obtaining high-resolution sub-surface geological and structural data essential for effective exploration of both Critical Mineral and Rare Earth Element (REEs) resources. These advanced technologies play a pivotal role in providing critical sub-surface insights necessary for understanding the geological complexities of both mineral types. Exploration teams utilize this invaluable sub-surface information, in conjunction with geological, geochemical, and additional datasets, to evaluate potential sites and make informed decisions, ensuring focused and efficient exploration efforts.


In addition, our low frequency Helitem2 AEM technology uniquely acquire data at Tx frequencies as low as 6.25Hz, using a high-power square wave form for enhanced resolution, a wide Tx pulse width for greater target energization, and long Tx off times. These unique features ensure maximum depth of exploration and enhanced sensitivity to highly conductive targets, which are common in Critical Metal sulfides.

For instance, rare earth elements are indispensable for producing permanent magnets used in wind turbines, while vast amounts of copper and aluminum are required for electricity networks. Rare earth elements consist of 17 elements on the periodic table as illustrated below. They include the group known as lanthanides (separated into Light REEs and Heavy REEs, plus two other elements, scandium and yttrium, that have similar characteristics.

Although called Rare Earth Elements they are not particularly rare in the earth’s crust. (Cerium is the 25th most abundant element and lutetium, the scarcest REEs, is 60th most abundant.) However, it is not common for them to occur in concentrations sufficient to support commercial mining operations.


REEs deposits almost exclusively occur with only low concentrations of Rare Earth elements (REEs). For this reason, indirect exploration techniques often target mapping of host rocks, geological alteration, and geological structures such as intrusions, faults, which are associated with the REE resource.


Most commercial resources of REEs are associated with four geological environments: alkaline igneous rocks, carbonatites, placer deposits with monazite-xenotime mineralisation, and ion-adsorption clay deposits.

In each of these environments, airborne geophysical and geospatial technologies are employed to accelerate exploration and provide focussed high-priority areas for detailed late-stage investigations.




FALCON® and HELIFALCON® AGG measures minute variations in gravity caused by differences in density between different rocks.

For CM Solution: AGG data is used to map target and host lithology, intrusives, structures and fault systems that influence placement of Critical Minerals from surface to depths of many kilometres underground. Falcon AGG data is routinely used in exploration for Copper, Nickel, Cobalt, PGE and other minerals.

For REE Solution: AGG data is used to map rock types, intrusives, structures and fault systems that influence placement of REE resources from surface to depths of many kilometres underground. The example below shows Falcon AGG data mapping the Elk Creek REE carbonatite, an intrusive complex buried under 200 m of sedimentary rocks in SE Nebraska, USA.

FALCON® AGG data mapping internal and external geology and structure of the Elk Creek carbonatite niobium and REE Deposit, Nebraska, USA. 
(a) Filtered Vertical Gravity Gradient (GZZ) and (b) Horizontal Gradient Magnitude (HGM) of gravity field 
 Ref: Benjamin J. Drenth, (2014), “Geophysical expression of a buried niobium and rare earth element deposit: The Elk Creek carbonatite, Nebraska, USA”, Interpretation 2:SJ23-SJ33 

TEMPEST® and HELITEM® AEM measures subtle changes in electrical resistivity between different rocks for both solutions. This data is used directly map conductive critical mineral resources, such as copper and other base metal sulphides, map the basement and cover lithologies, alteration zones, faults and other structures, and basement topography, to great depth underground (up to 500-750m depending on geology).

TEMPEST® AEM resistivity depth image mapping a clay-hosted REE deposit, Western Australia
Client interpreted red lines mark the top and bottom of prospective clay horizons. The interpretation correlates closely with the REE enriched clay zone, previously drilled by SAC217.
 Ref: “AEM shows Vast Scale of Target Areas”, OD6 Metals Ltd, ASX Announcement 15 Dec 2022
Model of Tempest AEM data over the Kansanshi Mine stratiform copper mine, in the Zambian Copper Belt. The mine pit is flanked by very conductive carbonaceous phyllite and the ore deposit in the less conductive, altered Main Zone is being mined.
 Ref: Christensen et al, “The role of Fugro TEMPEST AEM and FALCON AGG surveying in stratiform Cu and IOCG exploration in Zambia” 13th SAGA Biennial Conference, Oct 2013.

XMAG and MIDAS® gradient magnetic and radiometric technologies measures subtle changes in magnetic and radiometric properties between different rocks. This data is used map geology, alteration, intrusions, faults and other structures, and is usually complementary to other datasets, increasing the interpretability and reducing risk.

Radiometric thorium from the airborne survey.  Dark blue areas (lowest values) in regional survey area represent lakes. 
 Ref Chunzeng Wang et al, “A recently discovered Trachyte-Hosted Rare Earth Element-Niobium-Zirconium occurrence in northern Maine, USA”, Economic Geology (2023) 118 (1):1-13 

Xcalibur’s advanced technologies provide exceptionally high quality and resolution, multi-parameter, airborne geophysical data for Critical Minerals and Rare Earths exploration and development, with significant advantages over traditional ground survey techniques, including:


  • 100% data coverage with over national parks, rough or dangerous terrain, water bodies, etc
  • Consistent high density data sampling for superior data quality and interpretability
  • Minimal social and environmental impact (no ground access required)
  • Significantly faster data acquisition for accelerated exploration and development
  • Scalable technology to explore large regions effectively and efficiently and to identify areas with high geothermal resource potential for focussed follow-up.
  • Higher efficiency and lower cost
  • Multiple parameter acquisition for reduced interpretation ambiguity

Critical Mineral – REEs Projects


Critical Mineral Projects


Related news

Contact us.