The use of dogs in prospecting

Jorma O. Valkama1, V. Juhani Ojala 2
1Geological Survey of Finland, Rovaniemi, Finland, 2Store Norske Gull AS, Rovaniemi, Finland

Between 1964 and 1994, dogs (German Shepherds) were used by the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) for tracing sulphide-containing boulders. Professor A. Kahma and T. Mustonen wondered in spring 1962whether dogs could smell a rock containing sulphide ore, they, as most geologists world wide, have noticed, sulphides give an odor especially when broken. They contacted late Mr Pentti Mattsson, a well know Finnish dog trainer, and asked if it would be possible to train a dog to smell ore. Mattsson asked if they smell, then it would be possible to train dogs for such a purpose. Mattsson started training a dog with pyrite boulders and soon they organised variety of experiments, with which the dog coped very well. Even in the winter, while braving freezing weather and deep snow, the dog found chalcopyrite boulders under the snow, and their belief about the dog's skills began to get stronger. The world's first prospecting dog Mattsson trained was Rajan Lari. Lari was trained to become the first prospecting dog in Finland and in the whole world.

GTK used 16 prospecting dogs between 1964 and 1994 and mid 1980's there were eight dogs being used around Finland. The training methods for prospecting dogs were based on Pentti Mattsson's results obtained through experiments. In one test conducted in Virtasalmi in 1965, in an area covering over 9 km2, the dog found 1330 boulders containing sulphide in the test area, whereas the boulder prospector managed to find only 270 boulders, even though he knew that he was competing against a dog. The dogs were most effective smelling sulphide bearing rocks, including pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, pyrite, galena and molybdenum. Based on Mattsson's example and training methods, the training of the world's first drug detection dogs began in the UK.

The dog's effective working time was about six years and fieldwork period was about 6 months per year. The costs incurred by a prospecting dog consist mainly of the dog trainer's salary and other maintenance costs. The most valuable use was after a boulder discovery when dogs could quickly find more boulders to trace the source, and dogs played a role locating several mineralisations. In 1994, even though the overall results had been quite good, the use of dog was considered to be too expensive.