The general objective of Airborne Electromagnetic surveys is to conduct a rapid and relatively low-cost search for metallic conductors, e.g. massive sulphides, located in bed-rock and often under a cover of overburden and/or fresh water. This method can be applied in most geological environments except where the country rock is highly conductive or where overburden is both thick and conductive. It is equally well suited and applied to general geologic mapping, as well as to a variety of engineering problems, Semi-arid areas, particularly with internal drainage, are usually poor Airborne Electromagnetic environments. Tidal coasts and estuaries should be avoided. Weathered maific flows can provide strongly conductive backgrounds, particularly flows of Tertiary or Quaternary age.
Conductivities of geological materials range over seven orders of magnitude, with the strongest EM responses coming from massive sulphides, followed in decreasing order of intensity by graphite, unconsolidated sediments (clay, tills, and gravel/sand), and igneous and metamorphic rocks. Consolidated sedimentary rocks can range in conductivity from the level of graphite down to less than the most resistive igneous materials (e.g. dolomites and limestones). Fresh water is highly resistive. However, when contaminated by decay material, such lake bottom sediments, swamps, etc., it may display conductivity roughly equivalent to clay and salt water to graphite and sulphides.