Imaging iron ore from the Quadrilátero Ferrífero (Brazil) using geophysical inversion and drill hole data

Dionisio U. Carlos, Leonardo Uieda, Valéria C. F. Barbosa


Open-source implementation

This paper uses the planting inversion proposed in our 2012 paper. We used the implementation in the open-source Fatiando a Terra Python library (the fatiando.gravmag.harvester module). The module was introduced in version 0.1 of the library.


The Quadrilátero Ferrífero in southeastern Brazil hosts one of the largest concentrations of lateritic iron ore deposits in the world. Our study area is over the southern flank of the Gandarela syncline which is one of the regional synclines of the Quadrilátero Ferrífero. The Gandarela syncline is considered the Brazilian megastructure with the highest perspectives for iron ore exploration. Most of the iron-ore deposits from the Quadrilátero Ferrífero are non-outcropping bodies hosted in the oxidized, metamorphosed and heterogeneously deformed banded iron formations. Therefore, the assessment of the 3D geometry of the iron-ore body is of the utmost importance for estimating reserves and production development planning. We carried out a quantitative interpretation of the iron-ore deposit of the southern flank of the Gandarela syncline using a 3D inversion of airborne gravity-gradient data to estimate the shape of the iron-ore mineralization. The retrieved body is characterized by a high-density zone associated with the northeast-elongated iron formation. The thickness and the width of the retrieved iron-ore body vary along its strike increasing southwestward. The presence of a large volume of iron ore in the southwest portion of the study area may be due to the hinge zone of the Gandarela syncline, which is the zone of maximum compression. Our estimated iron-ore mass reveals variable dip directions. In the southernmost, central and northernmost portions of the study area, the estimated iron body dips, respectively, inwards, vertically and outwards with respect to the syncline axis. Previous geological mapping indicated continuous mineralization. However, our result suggests a quasi-continuous iron-ore body. In the central part of the study area, the estimated iron-ore body is segmented into two parts. This breakup may be related to the northwest-trending faults, which are perpendicular to the northeast-trending axis of the Gandarela syncline. Our estimated iron-ore mass agrees reasonably well with the information provided from the lithologic logging data of drill holes. In this geophysical study, the estimated iron-ore reserves are approximately 3 billion tons.


    title = {Imaging iron ore from the {Quadrilátero} {Ferrífero} ({Brazil})
        using geophysical inversion and drill hole data},
    volume = {61},
    issn = {0169-1368},
    doi = {10.1016/j.oregeorev.2014.02.011},
    journal = {Ore Geology Reviews},
    author = {Carlos, Dionísio U. and Uieda, Leonardo and Barbosa,
        Valeria C. F.},
    month = sep,
    year = {2014},
    pages = {268--285}


Carlos, D. U., L. Uieda, and V. C. F. Barbosa (2014), Imaging iron ore from the Quadrilátero Ferrífero (Brazil) using geophysical inversion and drill hole data, Ore Geology Reviews, 61, 268-285, doi:10.1016/j.oregeorev.2014.02.011

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