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Uncovering what lies beneath the Earth

- Wits University

State-of-the-art techniques and high-end computer graphics help to process, interpret and model huge volumes of integrated data in 3D.

Using only traditional exploration techniques, such as drilling boreholes, does not enable an accurate perspective of the structural complexity of the earth’s subsurface at depth.

However, using new three-dimensional (3D) seismic reflection interpretation technology, initially developed for the oil and gas industry, can enable 3D visualisation of the subsurface of an entire mining area.

“We are conducting research on the processing and interpretation of 2D and 3D seismic data. This high-resolution mapping of some of the world’s deepest gold and platinum-bearing horizons from South African mines is significant for the country’s economy,” explains Dr Musa Manzi, the Director of the Wits Seismology Reflection Centre.

The first black South African to obtain a PhD in Geophysics, Manzi has collected a host of local and global awards for his internationally groundbreaking work on 3D seismic reflection data from the Wits Basin, which is central to South African gold mining.

With significant support from industry, Manzi and his team are addressing the skills shortage in the oil, gas and mineral industries and other key sectors that drive development on the continent.

“These 3D-technologies can also help to reduce the risk posed by rock bursts in mining,” adds Manzi.

“The research seeks to develop new techniques that will allow the detection of methane conduits (faults and dykes) in deep underground mines, which will mitigate risks and hazards associated with methane explosions.”

The state-of-the-art techniques and high-end computer graphics capability provide a superb platform for the processing, interpretation and modelling of a huge volume of integrated data in 3D space.

“The Wits School of Geosciences is the largest geosciences postgraduate training facility in Africa and attracts a significant number of international students, mostly from Africa,” says Professor Roger Gibson, Head of the School.

“With the increasing number of new petroleum and natural gas discoveries being made in central and southern Africa in recent years, this Centre provides an excellent training facility to develop high-level manpower needs for this growing field.”