19,000 drill cores from drill holes in the Swedish bedrock are meticulously stored in handcrafted, carefully labelled, wooden boxes in a 7,000m² storage facility in Malå. This unique drill core archive is the property of SGU and has, for decades now, been an important destination for prospectors from all over the world.
Every single one of these drill cores is a permanent key to the doors of the Swedish bedrock and the minerals it contains. The generous quantities of base metals and iron are fairly well known, but the billion year old rock types are constantly giving up their secrets in the form of previously unremarked substances. One reason for this is, of course, new and improved technology for scanning and analysing the drill cores. Another is need: tomorrow’s social challenges and technological development will demand that we identify new substances.
“This archive ensures we are well-equipped to identify critical metals and in-demand substances for a great many years to come. What we have here are the seeds of deposits that we don’t even know we’re going to need to harvest. Just a few years ago, for example, no one cared about tellurium, but it’s attractive now because it is needed for the manufacture of artificial diesel and solar panels, amongst other things,” says Leif Bildström, a geotechnician at SGU.
But the over three million metres of drill cores from all over Sweden, together with their associated exploration reports, are just one component of the vast body of informative material that the Geological Survey of Sweden makes available to any and all interested parties. Malå is also home to ca. 20,000 blocks and mineralised slab samples, along with the rock data maps, searchable databases and much more besides. Much of the material is accessible via sgu.se, but for comprehensive information – coupled with personal service and support from the dedicated and experienced geologists and geotechnicans who work for SGU – a visit to Malå is the way to go.
For a geologist, researcher or anyone else interested in the bedrock, it’s important to see and feel the material.
“Many of the drill cores have been scanned and the data is available in our databases and at sgu.se, but for a geologist, researcher or anyone else interested in the bedrock, it’s important to see and feel the material. We’ve had customers who’ve never been to Europe before, but who come directly to us, to our little northern Swedish community of 2,000 people. They often come planning to stay for a day or two, but they usually end up staying so much longer that they have to stock up at Malå’s clothing store! Some of them have even settled here or opened offices here,” says Jerry Hedström, a geotechnician at SGU.
Jerry Hedström says that the visitors have usually done their homework before they arrive. They also often have a vision of the type of deposit they’re hoping to find, but it’s not unusual for that vision to change over time, depending on what they discover once they’re in Malå, in the heart of one of Sweden’s three main mining areas.
Total discretion is a must when visits collide, and the fact that SGU is a neutral party that treats everyone in the same way is appreciated, as is the high level of service-mindedness and the relaxed atmosphere.
“Not having to wear a tie is something a lot of people really like, too,” says Leif Bildström, and laughs.
SGU personnel are constantly expanding the content of the searchable database and cataloguing the ever-growing drill core archive, in order to optimise their ability to meet their visitors’ requirements.
“We used to have prospectors arriving in the spring, once the snow had melted and the ground was bare. What we’re looking forward to now is springtime for the global market, and we’re ready to handle even more stakeholders! The building blocks of tomorrow’s mining industry lie here in Malå – of that we’re absolutely sure,” says Leif Bildström.