Ideon Technologies leads international collaboration for borehole muon detector trials

Leading uranium producer Orano will be world’s first to deploy as part of Eureka-approved project

Vancouver, BC, CANADA (November 16, 2020) – Canadian Earth ‘x-ray’ start-up Ideon Technologies is initiating the world’s first field trials of a muon detector that fits down industry-standard boreholes – together with French multi-national Orano Group, in a cooperative EUREKA-approved research and development project, and with funding support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

Ideon is a world pioneer in cosmic-ray muon tomography, which provides x-ray-like imaging to those who explore beneath the Earth’s surface. The Ideon discovery platform integrates proprietary muon detectors, imaging systems, inversion technologies, and artificial intelligence to produce 3D density maps of features up to 1 km underground. It improves geologists’ subsurface field-of-view, reducing the need for expensive drilling activity while increasing discovery certainty.

EUREKA logo

EUREKA is the world’s biggest platform for international cooperation in R&D and innovation. Funding is merit-based and highly competitive. As part of the collaboration, Ideon will receive advisory services and up to C$435,000 in funding support from NRC IRAP for the EUREKA-approved project. Orano is partnering on this project with cash and in-kind support, while Ideon is contributing survey design, detector development, discovery platform processing, and field deployment.

The objective of the project is to build and demonstrate the world’s first industry-standard borehole (<10 cm diameter, HQ-gauge), low-power (<10W continuous power consumption), zero-maintenance (10 years maintenance-free) muon tomography detector suitable for operation in the extreme environmental conditions of mineral exploration sites around the world.

Like most companies competing in the $12 billion USD global mineral exploration market, Orano has a vested interest in developing innovative, cost-effective methods of discovering new ore bodies while reducing their environmental footprint. “We have been collaborating with Ideon for several years to advance muon tomography for commercial use,” says Hervé Toubon, Research & Development and Innovation Director at Orano. “It is virtually impossible to detect high-grade uranium deposits at depth using conventional geophysical exploration techniques. We successfully deployed Ideon’s first-generation muon detectors in 2016-17 to image a deposit under 600m of sandstone. After the impressive results of that trial, we wanted to be first in line to test Ideon’s new borehole detectors. The ability to deploy 50x smaller detectors, down industry-standard boreholes has the potential to greatly lower our exploration costs, significantly improve our discovery rates, and help us meet our environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) commitments.”

Orano's McClean Lake mill
Orano Canada’s McClean Lake mill in Saskatchewan – the only plant worldwide capable of processing high-grade uranium ore without dilution. Photo courtesy Orano Canada.

“We have demonstrated through trials with Orano and other major mining companies that muon tomography is well positioned to transform subsurface discovery,” says Ideon CEO and Co-founder Gary Agnew. “We will now demonstrate that the shape, size, and data capture and processing capabilities of Ideon’s proprietary muon detectors can be deployed within the confines of typical exploration boreholes and deliver the performance required to map density in 3D with excellent spatial resolution. We are grateful to Orano for their ongoing partnership and to NRC IRAP for supporting Canadian innovation through programs such as EUREKA.”

Orano will host the field trial in Saskatchewan in 2021 near a known deposit representative of the depth, size, grade, and density contrasts of targeted deposits. The company will contribute a test drill hole and associated infrastructure, geological models, geophysical data, drill assay data, terrain models, and logistical support for detector deployment. Together, Ideon and Orano will interpret the acquired muon tomography data and to qualify it against existing drill data and other geophysical datasets.

The outcome of this applied R&D project will be a new, field-proven method for mapping dense ore bodies at depth, along with a suite of new measurement instruments and an enhanced body of learning related to the application of muon tomography for mineral exploration applications. Ideon’s new borehole detector is slated for commercial release in 2021.

About EUREKA (eurekanetwork.org)
EUREKA is a European-based network for market-driven industrial research and development that brings together governments, industry, research institutes, universities, and other innovation-focused organizations worldwide to raise the productivity and competitiveness of business through the development and commercialization of technology.

About Orano (orano.group)
Orano SA is a multinational nuclear fuel cycle company headquartered in France and majority-owned by the French state. Orano is a major player in nuclear fuel cycle products and services, from mining to dismantling, conversion, enrichment, recycling, logistics and engineering. Orano Canada and its predecessor companies have been exploring for uranium, developing uranium mines, and producing uranium concentrate since 1964.

About Ideon Technologies (ideon.ai)
Ideon Technologies is a spin-off from TRIUMF (Canada’s national particle accelerator laboratory) and a world pioneer in the application of cosmic-ray muon tomography. Ideon has developed a discovery platform that integrates proprietary detectors, imaging systems, inversion technologies, and artificial intelligence to provide x-ray-like visibility up to 1 km beneath the Earth’s surface. By detecting subsurface muons and transforming the data into reliable geophysical surveys and 3D density maps, Ideon helps geologists identify new mineral and metal deposits with precision and confidence. They drill less and discover more with Ideon – reducing cost and risk, saving time, and minimizing environmental impact. Ideon is also expanding the application of muon tomography to use-cases in oil and gas, critical infrastructure, and national security.

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