The mineral deposits are geologic bodies of natural or artificial boundaries (contours), which have arisen in complex processes of formation during the geological history of the Earth's crust. In its foundation, the formation of mineral deposits is related to the migration and collection of certain elements significantly above their mean grade in the Earth's crust.
Exploration of mineral deposits is a long-term, complex and multistage process. After defining the goal of the exploration, the first phase of work on the unexplored area is called reconnaissance (scouting) of the terrain. The strategic goal of this phase is the identification of mineralized areas. Reduction of areas with potential mineral potential is based on methods of remote detection, preliminary field visit, including regional surveying.
The second phase in the exploration is called prospecting and its purpose is to find mineral deposits. Geological field research finds prospecting indices, i.e. all geological and other landmarks that indicate the existence of mineral deposits, like: outcrops, mineralogical or chemical changes, elemental indicators, mineral indicators, geophysical anomalies, geomorphologic marks and traces of old mining. Contemporary geological practice recognizes three basic groups of methods of prospecting mineral deposits: geological, geochemical and geophysical. Geological methods of prospecting are based on testing of minerals and their paragenesis (rocks and ores). Geochemical methods of prospecting study distribution, concentration and migration of some elements in rocks, waters, air and plants. Geophysical methods of prospecting study various physical phenomena that are the result of deposits (magnetism, electromagnetism, electricity, wave propagation velocity, etc.). Classic geological methods of prospection, and most of the contemporary ones, are based on the study of the halos, i.e. the space around the ore body with higher concentration of elements, minerals and fragments of the ore.
The third phase is called preliminary exploration of the deposit and within it all methods on a limited scale are used. Information on the deposit should be provided at this phase. What types of works will be performed in preliminary exploration, surface or underground works or exploration drilling, depends on geological and structural conditions. A choice of the way and the scale of the previous exploration is very important, because not every previous exploration will lead to a detailed one, i.e. to opening of the mine. A well-defined scope of works can give valuable data and a sufficient basis for a conclusion, weather it is necessary to undertake extensive works or cancel every further exploration. After this phase it is possible to talk about a mineral resource with a rough estimate of the size and shape of the ore body and the grade of the useful component.
The fourth phase is a detailed study within which it is systematically investigated by drilling and underground openings. This exploration phase should provide all the necessary data on the site for the feasibility study, and based on it the decision to open the mine is made. At this stage, exploration works are carried out, which will determine the exact shape, quantity and quality of the mineral deposit. During the execution of the works, samples will be taken successively for quality tests, as well as for determining mineral processing technology, either in order to obtain concentrate or processing for technical needs. By determining the technological process of processing, the economic value of mineral materials can be determined. At this stage, it is explored with drifts, inclines, shafts and exploration drilling. In addition to that, the ore and the surrounding rock mass are examined, i.e., testing the physical-mechanical and structural properties of ore and surrounding rocks in order to design mining method. Underground openings that are used for exploration should be located in such manner that they can be used during the production. In the phase of detailed exploration it is necessary to systematically geologically map all mining works. On the geological map, all data on ore bodies, their contours, inclinations, contacts with side walls, joints, faults etc. must be entered.
After opening the mine and when starting the production, exploration is continued within the mine until its closure.