Alaska Energy Metals Uses Power Of Geology And Technology To Discover One Of America’s Largest Nickel Deposits

The future is electric. That means we’ll need a lot more of some materials than we currently have. It’s a race to the finish line for explorers who are currently looking for these materials. While some are applying AI to detect underground ore bodies, others are relying on seasoned geologists to work with technology to collect geological, geochemical, and geophysical data that will then lead them to find sizeable deposits.

No matter which route explorers decide to take, this work has become urgent to governments, automakers, geologists, and everyone in between because critical metals are in short supply. The International Energy Agency has made clear that our access to these metals—and the investments needed to obtain more—“fall short of what is needed to transform the energy sector.”

Rocks unearthed last year in Alaska, a pro-mining jurisdiction in the United States, by Alaska Energy Metals Corporation (TSXV: AEMC), were found to contain more than just traces of nickel, the key ingredient in electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure, but rather 8 billion pounds of contained nickel (or 3.7 million tonnes) in addition to copper, cobalt, platinum, and palladium. Gold was also found. This deposit, tucked away in Alaska, is now on track to become the largest nickel deposit in the United States.


Behind the Scenes: How Alaska Energy Metals Made Its Big Discovery


A big success and crucial find, Alaska Energy Metals found what it and many other stakeholders have been looking for. Alaska Energy Metals Corporation is a North American exploration company, with projects in Alaska and Quebec. Led by Gregory Beischer, a geologist and mining engineering technologist, he, alongside Gabe Graf, the Company’s Chief Geoscientist, and Kyle Negri, AEMC’s VP of Exploration, and advisor to the company, Larry Hulbert, found this deposit by making sophisticated inferences from an accumulation of historical and freshly collected data.

Prior to its drilling campaign last year, during which AEMC drilled eight diamond drill holes that gave them access to assays for a total of 44 different metallic minerals, the company also acquired 25 years worth of historical data generated during prior exploration campaigns on the Nikolai property. The historical information consisted of drill hole logs and assay information, several types of airborne and ground geophysical surveys, and geological mapping along with thousands of soil and rock samples with assays. Together, this information led to the discovery and delineation of the Eureka deposit. 

There are several additional prospects on the Nikolai property which Alaska Energy Metals plans to explore later this year. 



Why AEMC Did Not Use AI


AI’s role in mining has been all the buzz as of late, and for good reason. If it can land a big find, the payoff can be stupendous and make it all worthwhile. For AI to be most effective, knowledgeable geologists have to train it on what to look for, but this comes at a cost. Quite literally, AI is expensive as well as time-consuming to train. This makes it a gamble to use so early on in a project. AI can simplify things, but it cannot guarantee a find. This is also why some argue that AI is better used to perform narrower tasks.

Sam Cantor, head of product at Minerva Intelligence, an AI-driven mining exploration startup, puts it best. “Even with help from AI, placing bets on potential mineral deposits is far from a foolproof process; metals often turn up in places with wildly different conditions and geologic histories. “When you’re training an algorithm to recognise a face, you can assume there’s a mouth, and it’s below the nose and eyes,” Cantor says. “But if you apply that training to insect faces, you might find more than two eyes and no nose. Training an algorithm on data from Alaska and applying it to Nevada means it might have a lot of wrong assumptions.” 

For these reasons, Alaska Energy Metals chose not to use AI to find the Eureka deposit. 

“AI can certainly recognise patterns and may identify patterns that may not be immediately obvious to geologists. The human brain can only assimilate a limited amount of information. But our preference so far has been to use the skill and knowledge of expert geologists to interpret the data. There will certainly be a role for AI in future exploration work at our exploration projects,” said Gregory Beischer, CEO of Alaska Energy Metals.


Mining Needs Of The Era Ahead


Geology, the Study of the Earth, and technology go hand in hand in mining projects. They are the foundational elements of all exploration —something that will be required tenfold as we enter this next era. According to Benchmark Minerals, to avoid critical mineral shortages, the world will require well over 330 new mines to be built over the next decade.