Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Prospecting is the act of searching for minerals or ore deposits. Prospectors have found deposits of oil, coal, uranium, and other fuels that are important to modern industry. They have also found deposits of gold, silver, and other minerals.
In the United States prospectors were lured by the promise of rich gold, silver and other precious metals. They swarmed across the mountainous areas of the west carrying picks, shovels, gold pans and whatever else they would need. The early search for petroleum required drilling holes that might indicate an underground supply of oil. Other prospectors searched canyons and mountain peaks, hardly leaving a rock unturned while looking for wealth. The majority of early prospectors had no training and relied mainly on luck to discover deposits.
Modern prospectors today rely on training, the study of geology and prospecting technology.
Knowledge of previous prospecting in a geological area helps in determining location of new deposits. Prospecting includes drilling for samples in the ground and studying rocks that will be analyzed in a laboratory environment.
Instruments play a large role in gathering geological data. Instruments can check for variations in gravity or magnetism in certain areas. Geiger counters are used to determine the amount of radioactivity. Ultraviolet lamps may cause certain minerals to give off a different color. With the seismic method of prospecting, explosives are used to create small earthquakes. The shock waves can reveal conditions below the earth.
Chemistry is also used in prospecting. The presence of some chemical elements may indicate the presence of a certain mineral. Chemical analysis of rocks and plants may indicate the presence of an underground deposit. Studying dissolved chemicals in streams and underground water may also be helpful.
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