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Calin Cosma and Nicoleta Enescu, Vibrometric


High-resolution seismic imaging techniques are used for locating and delineating ore bodies, for assessing the constructability of rock and earth and for locating porous and possibly hydraulically conductive features. Applications like mining development, rock engineering and disposal of hazardous waste may demand that seismic measurements are carried out in very diverse conditions; over swamps and soft land, on rock and asphalt, in tunnels and in boreholes, in densely built areas and in confined workspaces.

The high frequency content of the signal emitted by a seismic source tends to decrease when the power of the source increases, which makes high resolution and wide investigation range difficult to achieve simultaneously. The investigation range can however be increased with little or no expense of resolution if the signal energy is built up over time, rather than being emitted as a short high-power burst /4/, /8/. Instead of the pseudo random coding of the impact rates used by Mini-Sosie, a monotonously varying rate is used, i.e. a swept impact rate, which makes SIST akin to Vibroseis. The monotonous variation of the impact rate used with SIST controls effectively the non-repeatability of the impact intervals and achieves a wide bandwidth even when the coupling to the rock or ground is relatively poor.

The SIST concept offers the possibility of turning standard mining and construction-site into safe, non-destructive and environmentally friendly high-resolution seismic sources. This makes the seismic method cost-effective and also provides a wide range of energy and frequency bands.

SIST-controlled construction-site equipment, producing from 20 J/ impact to 100 J/impact, are currently used as seismic sources to cover investigation distances from tens of meters to kilometers. Figure 1 shows two VIBSIST sources based on modified standard rock breakers. The VIBSIST-20 of Figure 1.a delivers 20 J/impact, at a mean impact rate of 20/second. The energy delivered in a 25s sweep is 10 kJ, which compares with a midsize drop-weight. The signal frequency, though, goes well beyond 2 kHz, while a drop weight of comparable energy, used in similar conditions, remains in the low hundreds of Hz. The larger VIBSIST-50 of Figure 1.b produces 50 J/impact at a mean repetition rate of 12/second. The energy delivered in a 25 s sweep is around 15 kJ. It is primarily intended for shallow reflection and refraction surveys from ground surface.
a) The VIBSIST-20 at the Grimsel test Site in Switzerland, Nov.1998 b) The VIBSIST-50 at a Gardemoen Airport site in Norway, July 2000
FIGURE 1: Surface VIBSIST tools used for Seismic profiling from tunnel and surface reflection profiling

The SIST technique has also been used to build borehole sources, which can be deployed in slim holes to depths of over one kilometer. The borehole sources presented are piezoelectric. The mean impact rate is 150/second the energy per impact being 2-3 J. The total energy delivered in a 25 s sweep is 7-10 kJ. The frequency band is 500-3000 Hz.

The VIBSIST-SPH presented in Figure 2.a couples to the borehole through the water. The fluid coupling allows the source to be run in a more or less continuous mode. The VIBSIST-SPHC of Figure 2.b clamps to the borehole by a motor-driven wedge mechanism, which allows the production of both P-and S-waves.



The use of the VIBSIST sources with high resolution seismic imaging is exemplified through four case histories: fracture mapping from tunnels and boreholes at the Grimsel Test Site (GTS) /6/, Switzerland, deep seismic imaging of rock fractures by VSP at Laxemar /1/, Sweden and sulfide ore delineation by crosshole tomography at Voisey’s Bay /3/ and in the Sudbury Basin /2/, Canada.


Impact devices like drop-weights and sledgehammers have been the more usual high-resolution seismic sources used on-land and in tunnels. A comparison between single-impact and SIST sources was done at the Grimsel Test Site, located in granite in the Swiss Alps, in 1997-1998. Figure 3.a and 3.b show profiles recorded from a 10 kg sledgehammer and the VIBSIST-20 source shown in Figure 1.a. The sources were positioned at 1 m intervals along a tunnel. Each of the two profiles were obtained from the array of sources to a 3-component accelerometer placed at a depth of 85 m in a borehole drilled laterally from the tunnel.
                       (a)                                                                               (b)

FIGURE 3:  Comparison between a 10 kg sledge hammer (a) and the VIBSIST-20 (b) - done at GTS, Switzerland 

The energy of the sledgehammer impact is estimated to 200-400 J and 20-fold stacking was used for the profile in Figure 3.a. The data quality was poorer than expected, due to the comparatively low transparency of the rockmass at GTS. The use of the VIBSIST-20 overcame the low transparency problem and lead to both higher frequency and signal-to-noise ratio. The sweping time for Figure 3.b was 20 seconds.


Deep VSP surveys were carried out at Laxemar, in SE Sweden in 2000, as part of a methodological assessment program conducted by the Swedish Nuclear Power Agency (SKB). The goal of the surveys has been to locate fracture zones in the crystalline bedrock. A VSP test has been carried out in a 1.5 km deep borehole. The same profiles were measured with explosive sources (15 g and 75 g) and with the VIBSIST-50 (Figure 1.b).
                        (a)                              (b) 
FIGURE 4:  Comparison between an explosive source (15g) (a) and the VIBSIST-50 (b)

The results obtained are compared in Figure 4, where eight-level vertical component traces are shown, from depths between 840-875 m. The noise level is maintained the same for both graphs shown, the variation of the amplitudes being therefore indicative of the S/N ratio.


At the two Canadian mining sites, the objectives were to delineate the geometry of the ore deposits and to differentiate massive from low-percent sulphide mineralization. The emphasis was placed on velocity tomography rather than reflection imaging, due to the opposite variation of the velocity and density of the sulfide ore with respect to the surrounding country rock, resulting in a low acoustic impedance contrast. The Voisey’s Bay measurements were carried out at depths varying from 540 m to 770 m, in three sections, having one common borehole. The water-coupled SPH-54 source produced mainly P-waves as seen in Figure 5. The combined 3-section tomographic reconstruction result is shown in Figure 6. A curved-rays modified SIRT code has been used, which allows borehole deviations, cable elongation errors and anisotropy to be estimated and corrected for.
FIGURE 5: seismic profile recorded from the VIBSIST-SPH-54 source,
in crosshole geometry, Voisey's Bay, Canada, Nov.1999

FIGURE 6: Crosshole tomographic 3D imaging at Voisey's Bay, Canada, Nov.1999


The Sudbury surveys were carried out in an underground mine, from a gallery at a depth of 880 m. The SPHC-44 borehole-clamped piezoelectric source produced significant amounts of both P-and S-waves (Figure 7) and allowed the parallel analysis of the P-and S-wave fields and the computation of the compression and shear moduli, as shown in Figure 8.

FIGURE 7: Seismic profile recorded from the VIBSIST-SPHC-44 source, in crosshole geometry, Fraser Mine, Canada, May 2000
FIGURE 8: P- & S-wave crosshole tomographic imaging at Fraser Mine, Canada, May 2000


Sources based on the SIST technique proved their ability to produce the high quality data needed for seismic imaging in all the cases described in this paper and that the detection and characterization of rock discontinuities, the determination of the 3-D positions and orientations of rock features and the tomographic mapping of seismic velocities can be done with these sources. Parallel surveys performed in a tunnel with single impact and VIBSIST sources outlined the advantages of the latter.

A comparison between VIBSIST sources and explosive charges was done, the VIBSIST sources producing a S/N ratio similar with or higher than explosive amounts commonly used. The production rate has however been significantly higher than with explosives.

With the high operational speed and resolving power offered by the SIST techniques it becomes possible to acquire, at a reasonable cost, the large volume of data needed with complex imaging approaches.

The techniques used for data analysis have not been the primary goal of this paper and therefore their presentation has been referred to other publications. The results and models obtained using such techniques are presented, mainly to demonstrate the merits of SIST-based sources.


/1/ C. Cosma, N. Enescu and J. Keskinen, 2001. Vertical Seismic Profiling and Integration with Reflection Seismic Studies at Laxemar. SKB Report.

/2/ N. Enescu and C. Cosma, 2000. Crosshole Tomography Investigations at the Fraser Mine in Sudbury. Work report, Falconbridge Limited, Canada.

/3/ C. Cosma and N. Enescu, 2000. Seismic Investigations at Voisey’s Bay – Crosshole Tomography in Three Panels. Work report, Voisey Bay Nickel Company, Canada.

/4/ C. Cosma and N. Enescu, 1999. Characterization of Fractured Rock in the Vicinity of Tunnels by the Swept Impact Seismic Technique. ISRM 9th International Congress on Rock Mechanics, Paris, France.

/5/ C. Cosma, P.J. Heikkinen, J. Keskinen and N. Enescu, 1998. VSP in Crystalline Rocks – from Downhole Velocity Profiling to 3-D Fracture Mapping. The 3 rd Äspö International Seminar on Characterization and Evaluation of Sites for Deep Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste in Fractured Rocks. Äspö, Sweden.

/6/ Cosma, C., Enescu, N., Heikkinen, P.,Keskinen, J., 1998. Seismic Investigations at the Grimsel Test Site and Integrated Interpretation of Results, B-RP VIB 98-001, ANDRA.

/7/ Cosma, C., Olsson, O., Keskinen, J. and Heikkinen, P., 1997. Seismic characterization of fracturing at the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, from the kilometer scale to the meter scale. Sassa (ed): Proceedings of International Workshop "Application of Geophysics to Rock Engineering", Int. Soc. of Rock Mechanics, New York. p 66-73.

/8/ Park, C.B., Miller, R.D., Steeples, D.W. and Black, R.A., 1996. Swept Impact Seismic Technique (SIST). Geophysics, 61, no. 6, p. 1789 – 1803.