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Core logging procedure

The following steps are suggested during the core logging process:

1. Clean the core of drilling fluids or mud.

2. Mark major structures, proposed point load testing locations, and depths (every 1-2 metres) on
undisturbed core in splits.

3. Photograph the core in the splits (if using triple tube method) with a scale placed in the picture and a
whiteboard indicating what depth the core has been obtained from.

4. Complete the Discontinuity and core description logs.

5. Transfer the core from the splits to a labelled core box.

6. Once a core box is full, take a single photograph of the core box with a scale.

The steps are detailed in the following sections.

Core photographs and preparation

One of the most important things to do at the drill rig is photograph the undisturbed core in the splits. These
photos may be used later to confirm televiewer images and will be an invaluable resource on the rock mass
and for review of the design work.

Proper core photos require that the core be cleaned prior to photographing. When core is covered in drilling
mud, structural information can be obscured making it difficult to determine lithologies. Take the time to
properly clean the core. The core should be wet if possible as some structural features do not show up on dry
core so make sure to wet it down with a spray bottle or paint brush. The following are also required in all core

 A scale - make sure the measuring tape you use is in focus and readable in the photos

 A white board with the project name, project number, hole ID, date, interval number(s), and depth
from and to written out

 The depths with 1 meter increments marked on the core using a paint pen or grease pencil

 Labels of major structures, including type and depth. Examples of colours and symbols are
outlined in Table 1.
Table 1: Examples of core symbols
Item Colour Symbol

Whole meter depth White

Major structures Red

PLT samples Yellow

Mechanical breaks Blue


1. Major structures should be identified using their corresponding logging code. In the example above the
symbol is for a Fault; if the structure was a Shear the “F” would be substituted for an “S”.

2. The numbers in the Whole meter depth and Major structures symbols indicate the depth in meters.

The properties used in the core description are recorded by intervals for each run of core. An interval
represents a change in lithology, alteration, and/or rock mass quality. The benefit of logging on an interval basis
is that it allows for distinctly different units within one run of core to be assigned their own properties. This
prevents the need for averaging different units over the length of a run, which can lead to overestimating /
underestimating material properties. Photograph 1 below provides an example of a change in rock mass
quality. Intervals should be at least 30 cm in length and will be at most the length of the core run. Intervals are
also numbered sequentially. For example if you have 100 runs you should have between 100 and 500
intervals, assuming a maximum run length of 1.5 m (5 feet). The start depth (i.e. depth from) and the end depth
(i.e. depth to) for each interval should be recorded as measured from the top of the hole. This is strictly a
function of where the drill bit started and ended during the run, and may be less than the length of the
maximum run if blocking of the core barrel occurs, the bit requires replacement, etc.
Figure 1: Example of rock core broken into intervals

Depths of zones of substantial core loss may have to be estimated. For example, if a 1.5 m run of core is
completed and only 1.0 m of core is returned with 0.4 m of crushed rock at the start (first interval) and 0.6 m of
competent rock following (second interval), it is likely that the core loss occurred in the crushed zone.
Consequently, the end depth of the first interval and the start depth of the second interval should be adjusted to
account for the 0.5 m loss of core in the crushed zone. If a downhole survey (e.g. with a televiewer) has been
completed, the zone of core loss may be more accurately defined by the images from the survey, requiring
modification of the logs during the matching process with the televiewer and core logging data.

Core description
The Core description portion of the log covers the lithology, interval determination data, and the rock mass
classification. Below is a description of each logging parameter. Both the top and the bottom of the interval are
to be recorded.
Colour and rock description

Colour and rock descriptions should be logged as part of the core logging procedure to indentify the lithologies
and alteration sequences encountered. Logging should be based on easy to identify attributes that will in most
cases allow rock type to be determined quickly and easily. Such attributes include:

 Pattern

 Colour

 Grain size

 Texture

 Fabric

 Lithology

 Alteration
Logging these parameters separately and on an interval basis will allow for recognition of subtle variations that
would normally be smoothed over in the summary log, and will ensure that the descriptions produced for final
reporting are clear, concise, and repeatable. Codes describing the above should be decided upon in advance,
and kept as simple as possible for ease of data entry and for consistency. An example of possible codes for a
geotechnical core logging scheme is included in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Examples of rock core desciption codes

Modifier Code Pattern Code Primary/secondary color Code
Light L Banded BA Pinkish PK
Dark D Streaked SK Reddish RD
Blotched BL Yellowish YW
Mottled MT Brownish BR
Speckled SP Olive OL
Stained ST Greenish GR
None NO Blueish BL
Greyish GY

Grain size
Code Term Particle Size Examples
VC > 60 mm Porphyries-w measureable grains
C Coarse 2 -60 mm Congromerate,Breccia,Gneiss-w/measureable grains
Sandstone, Gabbro, Granite, Schist - having clearly
M Medium 0.06- 2 mm
visible grains
0.002 - 0.06
F Fine
mm Tuff, Siltstone, Claystone, Mudstone, Basalt
VF Very fine <0.002 mm

Code Texture Description
AP Aphanitic Grains cannot be seen with naked eye
EQ Equigranular All grains are the same size
BM Bimodal Two sizes of crystal exist in rock
TR Trachytic Alignment of grains in a volcanic rock parallel to flow direction
AC Acicular Crystals are needle shaped
DM Diamitic Gap graded, matrix supported clasts (sedimentary)

Code Fabric Description
GN Gneissic Alternating layers of different colour or texture
BX Brecciated Angular fragments that have been healed
BD Bedded Deposited in layers, can be in sedimentary or volcaniclastic rocks
IB Interbedded Beds alternating with others of a different character
MA Massive No crystal or grain fabric (homogeneous)
Intrusive texture where large phenocrysts are present in a much
PR Porphyritic
finer grained groundmass
TU Tuff Lithified pyroclasic sediments
LT Lapilli tuff Lithified pyroclastic sediments with large clast inclusions
VC Volcaniclastic Clastic rock containing volcanic material
FO Foliated Mineral are aligned due to shearing or metamorphism

Code Lithology Description
Intrusive rock with a low quartz content and equal amount of
MZ Monzonite plagioclase and alkali feldspar (k-spar), mafic minerals may or
may not be present
Intrusive rock, approx. equivalent content of quartz,
GR Granitic intrusion plagioclase and alkali feldspar, mafic minerals may or may
not be present
Dyke containing mostly mafic minerals. Typically have
MD Mafic dyke
bleached contacts at KSM
DT Diorite Intrusive rock, mainly plagioclase feldspar
Feldspar Lath shaped feldspar crystals make up a significant
porphyry percentage of the rock mass (>=20%)
Foliated metamorphic rock, mica typical on foliation
SC Schist separation planes, foliation usually undulating, sometimes
poorly defined
Cemented angular fragments. Cause of brecciation is
VB Volcanic breccia volcanic, either by injection of melt or the breccia is
composed of pyroclastic debris
General term for all consolidated pyroclastic/volcaniclastic
TU Tuff
material, flow lines / bedding may be visible
LT Lapilli tuff Large clasts (2-64 mm) are visible in the tuff beds
VC Volcanic Fine grained, flow lines may be visible, mafic
SH Shale Fine grained sedimentary rock, laminated, fissile
Clastic sedimentary rock, grains are sand sized and may be
SS Sandstone
cemented with clay / silt sized particles
Very fine grained sedimentary rock, indurated, lacks the
AR Argillite
fissility of shale
UD Undistinguishable This term should be used as little as possible

Alteration codes
Site specific
Alteration Diagnostic
Code description from Literature description Mineral assemblage
type features
exploration logs
-introduces a wide clay minerals -feldspar grains
variety of clay have been replaced
minerals, includes with clay
kaolinite, smectite, and -slippery feel on
ARG Argillic illite discons
-can also have
kaolinite + quartz +
hematite + limonite
chlorite, muscovite,
CHL Chloritic groundmass
quartz, albite
when pervasive
-greater than 3% -addition of any -veins / matrix react
k veins carbonate minerals, calcite, dolomite, with acid
CAR Carbonate
typically calcite, malachite
ankerite, dolomite
-indurated and -thermal alteration, hornblende,
strengthened seems "baked" plagioclase, chlorite,
HFS Hornfels resulting in stronger biotite
and more indurated
rock mass than parent
Hematite/Iron oxide minerals -red/brown/orange
-pyrite -typically formed from sericite, -feldspars
concentrations decomp of feldspars, quartz, pyrite decomposed to
2% and greater sericite and quartz sericite and quartz
-sericite and replace large feldspar
PHY Phyllic quartz altered grains, and feldspar in
feldspars the groundmass
-sericite typically -can be associated
pale green with high pyrite
-greenish pale -softens rock, easily
grey groundmass scratchable
-greasy feel
-occurs in acidic
-matrix has been -high temperature biotite, k-feldspar, -potassium feldspar
replaced by fine alteration, results from magnetite, +/- epidote present in
grained potassium enrichment specularite groundmass or as
hydrothermal k- -can occur during veining
POT Potassic
feldspar crystallization of -dark grey / purplish
-typically dark magma grey
grey - purplish
-dark green to -turns rocks green, chlorite, epidote, -green rock matrix
green usually alteration pyrite, actinolite +/-
-magnetic minerals replace Fe- carbonate
Mg bearing minerals
(biotite, amphibolite,
PRO Propylitic
pyroxene) but can also
replace feldspar
-low temperature,
distal to other
alteration types
-silica flooded/lots -addition of secondary quartz -strong to v strong
of veins silica (quartz)-most -sometimes
-hardened common silica stockwork of quartz
flooding: replacement veins
of the rock with
SIL Siliceous microcrystalline quartz
-another style is
stockwork: formation of
closely spaced
fractures in a network
filled in with quartz

1. More than one alteration type may be present in a zone. This should be indicated in the core log.
Total core recovery length

The total length of core recovered by the drillers from an interval is measured. In addition to providing a first
indication of zones of poor rock mass quality or drilling problems, total recovery can be used to check the run
block depths provided by the drillers. Also, it is not uncommon for the recovery length to be greater than the
drilled length; this often happens when the core breaks above the bottom of the hole on the previous run, or as
a result of errors in the measurement of the length drilled. Where multiple intervals and core loss (or gain)
occur between two run blocks, a judgement must be made for which interval(s) will be recorded as having the
difference. Appropriate strategies include:
 distribute core loss (or gain) over all intervals between the core blocks

 record the interval nearest the first core block as having the difference

 select the interval that contains the most fractured rock as having the difference

A mix of strategies may be appropriate; however, a single strategy is generally recommended for consistency
and ease of comparison of data. For programs where corehole televiewer programs are conducted, the
downhole images may assist in identifying the major zones of core loss.
Rock quality designation (RQD) length

The rock quality designation (RQD) is a modified core recovery measurement (Deere and Deere, 1989). For
each interval, the total length of all core pieces longer than 10 cm (4 in) as measured along the core centerline,
should be determined and recorded as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Measuring RDQ length from rock core (after Deere and Deere, 1989)

When measuring the RQD, the following should be taken into consideration:

 The total length of core must include all lost core sections
 When summing up the lengths, the breaks created by the driller during removal from the core
barrel (often referred to as “mechanical” breaks) must be ignored

 Before measuring the RQD, apply slight pressure with your hands along the length of the core to
check that all the discontinuities have opened. This will help ensure that “tight” joints are properly
accounted for

 A “soundness check” should be carried out for weathering / alteration and hardness (R) grades; if
W/A >4 or R≤1, then that length of core does not get counted in the RQD length

 The RQD length is measured along the axis of the core

 If RQD can be measured in the split tubes (if triple tube drilling has been carried out) before the
core is put into the box this will result in a more accurate estimate of RQD
Number of discontinuities

The number of geological discontinuities (fractures, joints, shears, bedding, etc.) within each interval is counted
and recorded. Breaks in the core from the process of drilling or boxing the drill core (mechanical breaks) are
not included in this count.

Mechanical breaks are identified by sharp core edges at the break and will often have clean breakage surfaces
with no infilling and no discolouration. If the cause of the break in the core is in doubt, treat the break as a
natural feature and include it in the discontinuity count. The core shown in Figure 3 has this kind of clear

Figure 3: Example of when the number of discontinuities can be counted directly from the core

Where discontinuities with thick infillings, faults, or zones of soil-like material are encountered count 1
discontinuity per 1 cm of infilling, fault zone, or soil zone thickness along the core centre line.

Figure 4 shows a sample where discontinuities must be estimated.

Figure 4: Example of when the discontinuity number must be estimated

For intervals that have closely spaced discontinuities too numerous to count (possible in bedded, laminated, or
foliated rocks), resulting in “discs” of core, the number of discontinuities can be estimated. This is done by
measuring the average size of the core pieces and dividing the interval length by the average piece size. For
example, a 30 cm zone of broken rock where the average particle size is 3 cm in diameter would count as 10
discontinuities. “Default” numbers for highly fractured rock should not be used

Number of sets

The number of discontinuity sets present in the rock mass is used to determine the joint set number (Jn), a
parameter used in Barton’s Q rock mass classification system. The most accurate way to determine the
number of joint sets is to process core orientation data and determine the number of sets from stereographic
projection of the discontinuity data. In the absence of core orientation data it may take several drill core runs to
see all of the sets present, particularly if there are widely spaced sets present. This parameter can be
extrapolated forwards and backwards in the drill core from zones where the set numbers are obvious; however,
make sure that if there are changes occurring in the structural fabric they aren’t missed by averaging the sets
over long sections of hole. Use whole numbers only, so if you have 2 sets and no other distinct features, use 2,
if there are other features use 3. This is a slightly conservative approach that is acceptable because it is difficult
to determine at the core scale whether widely spaced discontinuities form sets. It is important not to include
mechanical breaks in this number.

Strength grade

The strength grade (Table 4), sometimes referred to as hardness grade, is a field estimate of the strength of
the intact material. It is important to use your hands, knife and rock hammer when estimating the strength of a
sample. When using the hammer remember that only a firm blow need be applied. Also, make sure that the
induced break does not occur along a discontinuity, otherwise the strength test is invalid.

A single value should be used for the strength grade. If the grade within the interval ranges from one hardness
grade to another (e.g. is between 3 and 4), use half values (e.g. 3.5). If the hardness is extremely variable,
consider splitting the run into two or more intervals to accurately capture the variability.

Table 4: Field strength grades (ISRM 1978)

Grade Field identification

R6 Specimen can only be chipped with flat end of geological hammer
R5 Specimen requires many blows of flat end of geological hammer to fracture
R4 Specimen requires more than one blow of flat end of geological hammer to fracture
R3 Cannot be scraped or peeled with pocket knife; can be fractured with single firm blow of flat end of the geologic hamme
R2 Can be peeled by a pocket knife with difficulty; shallow indentation made by firm blow with point of geological hammer
R1 Crumbles under firm blow with point of geological hammer; can be peeled by a pocket knife
R0 Indented by thumbnail
S6 Indented with difficulty by thumbnail
S5 Readily indented by thumbnail
S4 Readily indented by thumb but penetrated only with great effort
S3 With moderate effort, penetrates several centimeters by thumb
S2 Easily penetrated several centimeters by thumb
S1 Easily penetrated several centimeters by fist

Weathering/alteration grade

The weathering/alteration grade is a measure of how the core properties (i.e. strength, mineralogy, etc.) have
been changed from their original form. Although these two characteristics are often paired together, it is
important to make a distinction between weathering and alteration. Weathering is the result of exposure to and
infiltration by surface agents (i.e. surface water, ice, air, freeze-thaw cycles, organic activity, etc.) and is limited
by proximity to the ground surface. Weathering is a relatively recent geologic process affecting the rock
mass. Alteration is a result of the geological formation of the rock mass itself, resulting in physical or chemical
changes. The effects of alteration generally pre-date weathering effects; however, it may be very difficult to
distinguish the two. In addition, alteration, in the context of geotechnical logging, is generally used to
downgrade the strength of the rock mass (e.g. sericitization, chloritization, argillization, etc.). However, there
are alteration types that can increase the strength of the rock mass (e.g. silicification, phyllic, etc.). More
sophisticated systems to define alteration type and intensity are often employed by geologists when
characterizing the ore deposit, and should be evaluated to determine their relationship to the geomechanical
properties of the rock mass.

Table 5 provides suggested weathering/ alteration grades and their associated descriptions. As for hardness
values, a single weathering/alteration value should be used. If the weathering/alteration is extremely variable,
consider splitting the run into two or more intervals to accurately capture the variability.

Table 5: Weathering/alteration grades

Grade Description Field identificat

Parent rock showing no discoloration, loss of strength or any other weathering effects.
A1/W1 Fresh and Unweathered
Strength may be increased by some alteration types.

Slightly Weathered or Rock may be slightly discoloured, particularly adjacent to discontinuities, which may be open
Altered than the fresh rock.
Moderately Weathered or Rock is discoloured; discontinuities may be open and have discoloured surfaces with alterati
Altered rock of the same unit.
Highly Weathered or Rock is discoloured; discontinuities may be open and have discoloured surfaces, and the ori
Altered penetrates deeply inwards. The ratio of original rock to weathered rock should be estimated
Completely Weathered Rock is discoloured and decomposed/ friable or changed completely to a soil, but original fab
or Altered parent rock.
A5/W6 Residual Soil Original rock fabric is completely destroyed.

Discontinuity description
Engineering in rock provides different challenges than those faced when using soil or concrete as engineering
materials because rock is a discontinuous material: the rock mass is made of blocks defined by joints, bedding,
faults, etc. (discontinuities). The geological and engineering properties of the discontinuities are important for
excavation design. While the detail of observations commonly required for a single discontinuity will be familiar
to exploration geologist, the volume of data to be collected over a drilling program can be overwhelming. The
level of effort required in discontinuity data collection must be determined with consideration of the detail
required for the level of design of the study, and the practical limitations of the site conditions and the field
program schedule.

For detailed engineering studies is it not uncommon for every individual discontinuity to be logged and
described to a level of detail that includes all of the observations outlined in the sections below. However, for a
geotechnical data collection program running concurrently with exploration and relying on the site geology staff
at, say a preliminary assessment level, provision of this amount of detail may not be practical. During the early
rock engineering investigation phases of projects or properties, the data collected should focus on:

 Estimating the “average” or “typical” properties of the materials at the site

 Determining what / where the materials are that may be at the ends of the spectrum of expected
engineering behaviour, i.e. where are the very weak rocks and very strong rocks or the highly
plastic soils and very stiff soils? Those materials that differ significantly from the “general” or
“average” site conditions need to be quickly identified so that they can be explored, because the
weaker materials are most likely the ones that will have the greatest impact on the stability of an

 Identifying and describing the major discontinuity features: faults, weak seams or beds, and/or
contacts between geological units.

At least one example of the “typical” discontinuities for the interval should be logged. Where oriented core is
conducted, it will be useful to log one or two representative discontinuities of each type in each interval. The
following sections describe the observations that should be made for logged discontinuities.
Discontinuity depth

The discontinuity location should recorded as the total downhole distance along the core from the collar or
other zero reference point used for the program (drill deck, top of stick-up, ground surface) to the intersection of
the structure with the core axis to the nearest centimetre. The locations of discontinuities should not be
recorded with reference to the geotechnical interval from or to. Instead, the depth to the discontinuity along the
core centre line is recommended. Where multiple discontinuities occur at the same depth, it is useful to add
another digit to the depth measurement to differentiate between the features. For example, two discontinuities
at 352.21 m could be recorded as 352.211 and 352.212. Since many databases and 3D geological modelling
software tools interpret over lapping depths as errors, this can be avoided with a small modification to the data
collection approach recommended.

Discontinuity orientation
Methods for determining orientation

The orientation of discontinuities encountered in a drillhole can be determined a variety of ways. The general
concept is to mark the core with reference to a known direction or location (generally the top or bottom of the
core or magnetic north), depending on the method used to survey the core hole, then measure the relative
orientation of the discontinuities to the reference line. The most common core orientation methods currently in
use include the following methods:

1. Spear

2. Cralieus

3. Ezy-Mark

4. Clay-Imprint

5. Ball-Mark

6. ACT

7. Scribe

8. Acoustic or optical televiewer

Downhole surveys of the drillhole, where optical or acoustic images are taken of the discontinuities in the walls
of the core hole (method 8) have more recently become popular as technology has become more advanced
and the costs for these methods have decreased. The main advantage of this type of discontinuity orientation
method is that because it does not require recovery of the core to get a measurement, it is less labour
intensive. The main disadvantage of the televiewer system is that it still requires characterization of the
discontinuity so that the orientations calculated can be assigned to the appropriate structure type, thus
requiring some post-processing of the images and development of relational databases to match the data from
the core logging to the downhole survey data.
Alpha and beta angles

For drilling programs where more traditional methods of core orientation are undertaken, the orientation of
individual discontinuities and geological structures can be calculated by measuring the alpha (α ) and beta (β)
angles of the discontinuity and the orientation of the drillhole at the location of the discontinuity, as determined
by a downhole survey data for the core hole.

The alpha angle (α ) is the angle of intersection of between the discontinuity surface and the core axis (Figure
5). This can be measured with a goniometer, carpenter’s protractor, or even a Douglas-style protractor. The
alpha angle is always a positive angle between 0o to 90o.

The beta angle (β) is measured around the circumference of the core, clock-wise from the reference line
provided from the core orientation method (Ball-Mark, Ezy-Mark, ACT, clay-imprint, various scribe systems,
etc.) to the tip of the discontinuity farthest down-hole (Figure 1). The beta (β) angle is measured using a linear
protractor which has been sized for the diameter of the core.
Figure 5: Oriented core measurements