The people, science and technology behind discovery

Dr. Hamid Mumin – Forging industry partnerships for education and discovery

by Virginia Heffernan on November 1, 2012profiles

Although there is more overlap between the theoretical and applied aspects of economic geology than is true for most disciplines, geology professors are not usually recognized for their mineral discoveries.

One exception is Dr. Hamid Mumin, professor of geology at Brandon University in Manitoba. He was an active participant when Fortune Minerals found and delineated the Nico Fe-Oxide polymetallic deposit in the Northwest Territories (NWT) and has a list of other credits to his name: the Bogosu Gold Mine of the Ashanti Gold Belt, a carbonitite complex enriched in rare earth elements at Eden Lake, Manitoba; the magmatic South Bay nickel-copper showing near Leaf Rapids, Manitoba; and VMS deposits in Northwestern Ontario.

That kind of dedication to practical fieldwork supports Mumin’s overriding philosophy that his job is incomplete unless it benefits the “average person in the street”.

“Tremendous academic contributions have come out of industry sponsored work and for the most part, the collaborations have been excellent,” says Mumin, who does not believe the two worlds need conflict provided he remains an arms length consultant. “I have one basic rule: I will support you if you support my students.”

Fortune Minerals, for example, funded Mumin’s students in their research and provided summer employment. In return, Mumin helped guide Fortune’s efforts to find Iron Oxide Copper Gold (IOCG) deposits in NWT’s Great Bear Magmatic Zone.

Mumin’s experiences in Ghana early in his career helped shape his current approach. His exploration and feasibility work on the Bogosu deposit within the Ashanti gold belt, which later became a 100,000 oz.-plus producer, had a powerful and immediate impact on the local community.

“In Africa, especially, a little goes a long way to transform society. The social, economic and health benefits are enormous,” says Mumin, who was chief geologist and site manager at Bogosu in the late 1980s.

The Bogosu experience paralleled his industry collaborations in that it was equally - if not more - beneficial for Mumin. “I learned a lot more from my Ghanaian colleagues than they learned from me.”

To illustrate his point he tells the story of one Ghanaian geologist who, faced with a broken blueprint machine, decided to make his own. Mumin could hardly believe his eyes when the geologist produced a perfectly legible blueprint from a contraption jerry-rigged from a few pieces of plywood, some plexiglas, and a bottle of ammonia.

“Look what African ingenuity could do. They reduced a $20,000 piece of technological equipment to $5 of leftover scraps. It was wonderful to see the simplistic reality of it.”

Mumin’s work at Bogosu led to a PhD at the University of Western Ontario focused on the gold deposits of Ghana’s Ashanti belt. This was preceded by an M.A.Sc. in Economic Geology and a GeoEngineering degree, both from the University of Toronto (U of T).

Mumin developed an interest in geology as a boy spending summer vacations with his grandfather, a miner in Kirkland Lake. When the opportunity arose to complete Grade 13 in the northern Ontario town, including taking the only geology course offered in the province at that time, he pounced. The early education provided a natural transition to mine employment and his acceptance into geoengineering at U of T.

Mumin thinks Canada has the potential to host IOCG deposits that will surpass the NICO and Sue-Dianne deposits currently being developed in the NWT. He points to recent discoveries in the Central Mineral Belt of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Quetico belt west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the reinterpretation of mineralization in several mining camps, and a rising tide of IOCG exploration and discovery across Canada. He and his colleagues are still actively searching for IOCG mineralization in the Great Bear Magmatic Zone, NWT and in the Trans Hudson Orogen.

His advice for the aspiring geologists who might be on the hunt for these Olympic Dam replicas? “Every geologist will face temptation. There is a devil behind every other outcrop. Guard your integrity and professionalism and you will have a successful career.”