Skip to content

Common Earth modelling of the Kiruna mining district

Published: 19 August 2020

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology will, together with LKAB, do a comprehensive survey of the ore body in the Kiruna area.
– We compile all available data in a single model to find out what the bedrock looks like in depth, says Tobias Bauer, associate professor of ore geology at Luleå University of Technology.

In January 2018, the news came that the ore body in Kiruna is not continuing at the same volume as expected. In recent years, LKAB has invested considerable resources in exploration to secure the supply of iron ore.

In a new four-year project that starts this fall, researchers from Luleå University of Technology, together with LKAB, will add additional important pieces to the puzzle. The entire Kiruna area, from Kurravaara to Kalixforsbron, will be mapped to obtain important knowledge of what the bedrock looks like in depth. By using so-called Common Earth modelling, it is possible to obtain detailed information of Kiruna and its surroundings. All available data – geophysical and geological – from, among other things, exploratory drilling, The Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU) and the university's own field mapping will be compiled in a common 3D model.

"New in Europe"

In this way it is possible to find out the magnetic properties of the bedrock, where there are faults or deformed so-called shear zones, how ore bodies and mineralizations are formed and where they may disappear or continue.

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology have previously made a 3D model of the entire Skellefte field, which has some 80 known ore bodies, but the model of the Kiruna area is becoming even more extensive. It will reveal what is underground down to a couple of miles deep.
– It is new in Europe to do modellings using this method. Common Earth modelling is a fairly new area, perfect for geologists and geophysicists to collaborate on. At Luleå University of Technology we have all the skills required for it. We see it as an incredible opportunity to do this together with LKAB, says Tobias Bauer, associate professor of ore geology at Luleå University of Technology and leader of the new project "Common Earth modelling of the Kiruna mining district".

– LKAB sees this collaboration as a technology leap that can lead to new ore discoveries, especially at great depth. Combining our knowledge and data from the area around the Kiruna mine with other available data into a 3D model enables efficient exploration that saves both time and resources, says Jan-Anders Perdahl, section manager for exploration at LKAB.

Future mining operations

Christina Wanhainen, professor of ore geology at Luleå University of Technology, believes that Common Earth modelling will be a given element in future mining operations.
– This will be directly applicable to LKAB. Common Earth modelling provides valuable knowledge about how an ore body continues, disappears or perhaps bends, and in the future, surprises can be avoided. We are very early in using this method, and doing it on such a large scale – with a database covering the entire Kiruna area. This is unique in Europe, she says.

In the media: