Unveiling the 3D undercover structure of a Precambrian intrusive complex by integrating airborne magnetic and gravity gradient data into 3D quasi-geology model building

Mineral exploration under a thick sedimentary cover naturally relies on geophysical methods. We have used high-resolution airborne magnetic and gravity gradient data over northeast Iowa to characterize the geology of the concealed Precambrian rocks and evaluate the prospectivity of mineral deposits. Previous researchers have interpreted the magnetic and gravity gradient data in the form of a 2D geologic map of the Precambrian basement rocks, which provides important geophysical constraints on the geologic history and mineral potentials over the Decorah area located in the northeast of Iowa. However, their interpretations are based on 2D data maps and are limited to the two horizontal dimensions. To fully tap into the rich information contained in the high-resolution airborne geophysical data, and to further our understanding of the undercover geology, we have performed separate and joint inversions of magnetic and gravity gradient data to obtain 3D density contrast models and 3D susceptibility models, based on which we carried out geology differentiation. Based on separately inverted physical property values, we have identified 10 geologic units and their spatial distributions in 3D which are all summarized in a 3D quasi-geology model. The extension of 2D geologic interpretation to 3D allows for the discovery of four previously unidentified geologic units, a more detailed classification of the Yavapai country rock, and the identification of the highly anomalous core of the mafic intrusions. Joint inversion allows for the classification of a few geologic units further into several subclasses. We have demonstrated the added value of the construction of a 3D quasi-geology model based on 3D separate and joint inversions.