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Surficial Geochemical Methods for Detecting Buried Mineral Deposits

College of the North Atlantic has partnered with Aurora Energy to apply traditional geochemical techniques used in pure research to mineral exploration. Their research is focussing on using trace element mineral chemistry to find buried uranium and nickel sulfide deposits.

The project, Innovative Surficial Geochemical Methods for Detecting Buried Mineral Deposits in Newfoundland and Labrador, is the brainchild of Dr. Gary Thompson, an instructor at the Burin campus.
Dr. Thompson believes that this project will help build relationships between the college and the exploration industry.

“Due to the nature of this project, I’ll be working with some of the exploration companies in the province. This will help raise the profile of the college as a research institution as well as a teaching institution.”
To aid in the project, College of the North Atlantic’s Office of Applied Research (OAR) received nearly $100,000 in funding from the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund program.

The project is exploring innovative approaches to find any remaining economic deposits which are hidden under meters of glacial till, or well below the surface of exposed bedrock. Both geophysical and geochemical methods for mineral exploration are needed.  According to Dr. Thompson, the project has three components.

“The project will look at new ways of examining the geochemistry of soils to help find mineral deposits. The first part we’ll be looking at is soil chemistry for oil and gas. The second is the chemistry of trees and plants for buried mineral deposits under them. And the third is for indicator minerals for base mineral deposits such as nickel and copper.”  He says the majority of the grant money will be used to purchase the tools necessary for field sampling.

“Hopefully in the spring I will undertake a field program in Western Newfoundland to collect some field samples. Then they’ll be analyzed over autumn and winter at the INCO innovation centre located in St. John’s at Memorial University.”

Once the samples are collected, Dr. Thompson will be joined in the by Professor Derek Wilton of Memorial University to analyze the data.

“I’m pretty excited about the project. It’s really good to get the funding and this way I can move forward on some of my research ideas and initiatives.”