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Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.


News & Views

News Archive

December 7, 2016

Geosoft introduces IP and resistivity inversion in VOXI Earth Modelling

Geosoft has added induced polarization and resistivity data inversion to its VOXI Earth Modelling 3D inversion software service. Geoscientists are now able to create detailed 3D models of conductivity and chargeability from IP and resistivity survey data with VOXI. The resulting models can assist in interpreting and targeting regions for mineral and environmental applications...

December 5, 2016

Mexico's Deepwater Round Exceeds Expectations

Some of the world's biggest oil companies showed up Dec. 5 and agreed to invest on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico, proving that deepwater exploration still has a pulse despite challenging market conditions...

November 30, 2016

Magnetic inversion results for Ngamiland available for download

A regional-scale geophysical inversion of magnetic field data in the Ngamiland region of northwestern Botswana is now available for download from the Botswana Geoscience Portal, a partnership initiative of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, industry sponsors and Geosoft...

November 30, 2016

LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from their engineering test runs to full science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30...

November 9, 2016

International Volcano Scientists Unite

For the first time, the United States will host the international Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop, previously held only in Italy. The workshop will take place this month in Vancouver, Washington. It is designed specifically for volcano observatories around the world and their staff to exchange ideas and best practices with each other...

October 4, 2016

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming...

October 3, 2016

Uganda Targets Up to U.S.$100 Million for Mineral Exploration

Uganda is well endowed with mineral resources and, like many naturally-gifted African countries, is becoming keen on ensuring that these resources play a transformative role in its long-term structural transformation dream - the Vision 2040...

September 9, 2016

Small-Scale Fishers Get A Big Boost With First-Of-Its Kind Impact Investment Fund

Conservation organization Rare announces the Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries at Our Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility, one of the largest funders of conservation worldwide, will be investing $6 million into the fund...

September 1, 2016

Scientists take to the skies to track West African pollution

Scientists operating research aircraft over West Africa have detected organic materials in the atmosphere over a number of urban areas, contributing to concerns of the rise in pollution across the region...

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

Brian Atkinson - Guide in the wilderness

by Dan Zlotnikov on March 8, 2013 profiles

Brian Atkinson is the Ontario Geological Survey regional resident geologist for the Timmins region. The Timmins and the Sault Ste. Marie districts span some 250,000 square kilometres. Within the region are 14 active mines with two more under construction, eight advanced exploration and 28 earlier-stage exploration projects, covering a wide variety of minerals and conditions.


“In the summer, I try to spend four days a week out in the field. Left to my own devices, I'd spend all of my time in the field.”
-Brian Atkinson

Ontario is, to put it mildly, very big. Canada’s fourth-largest, at a million square kilometres the province would still make the world’s thirtieth-largest country, bigger than Germany and France combined. This vast expanse has also long been known for its mineral riches, producing everything from amethysts to zinc.

Monitoring this enormous territory are the regional resident geologists – six in all – and their thirty-two staff.

“There are between one and three geologists working under each regional resident geologist. We're talking about a pretty limited workforce. We have huge districts, so it keeps us gainfully busy, staying on top of things,” says Brian Atkinson, the Ontario Geological Survey regional resident geologist for the Timmins region.

“Huge” is right: Atkinson’s domain – the Timmins and the Sault Ste. Marie districts – spans some 250,000 square kilometres. Within the region are 14 active mines with two more under construction, eight advanced exploration and 28 earlier-stage exploration projects, covering a wide variety of minerals and conditions.

Atkinson explains that the breadth of experience was one of the aspects that attracted him to the posting. He says that after university he had spent five years working in commercial exploration in British Columbia and the Yukon – a very different experience from his current role.

“When I worked for industry, it was always on contract, so you're always thinking about your next job. And when metal prices fall, it can be difficult to get work.”

The ebb of the commodity cycle prompted Atkinson to accept a contract as a Quaternary geologist with the Ontario government, working in Southern Ontario.  Soon after he won the competition for a resource geologist position in Ontario’s Red Lake district, a post he held for four years before the resident geologist position for the district became available. Atkinson remained at Red Lake for 14 years, but says that he has always had his sights on Timmins, where he moved in 1997.

“Timmins appealed to me from all the options across Canada, it's such a renowned place for great ore deposits.  It's both the size, and the variation in the types of deposits. It has world-class Archean gold deposits and one of the world's largest volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits. Timmins is a very large district, so it's got diamonds now. Copper-nickel deposits. There's a wide variety of deposits here and great geology.”

Being a regional resident geologist is, in many ways, a case of balancing opposing demands. The offices’ mission is to aid and guide mining companies, whether already working in the province or just considering Ontario for exploration possibilities. To accomplish this, each resident geologist must be an expert on his or her region, intimately familiar with the geological formations present in the region, the types of deposits, and the results of previous exploration activity.

At the same time each resident geologist must also be a generalist, able to offer advice to a client company no matter that client’s choice of mineral.

“As resident geologists, we're pretty general. We each might have an area that we like more than others, so we might lean toward that, but we have to be very general because we've got such a wide variety of clients who use our services,” says Atkinson.

This can mean switching from consulting with a junior diamond explorer one day to discussing high-tonnage copper mining operations the next.

[Click to enlarge]

Can you spot the geologist? The rugged terrain and remote nature of the field work have compelled a major emphasis on safety over the years, says Atkinson.

To stay current on their region, resident geologists must spend a lot of time in the field. Fortunately for Atkinson, that’s his favourite aspect of the job.

“In the summer, I try to spend four days a week out in the field,” he says. “Left to my own devices, I'd spend all of my time in the field.”

Of course all that time in the field cuts into the other side of the equation: The resident geologist is expected to stay current on new development in geoscience, which means reading publications. Lots and lots of them – one never knows what will be applicable to the next client’s request.

Nature helps with the balance. “In the winter you can't do much except visit mines and drill sites; looking at geology on the ground is pretty well out because of the snow, so I only spend one day or less a week out in the field,” says Atkinson.

There is also a trick to staying ahead of the avalanche of new publications.

“We work closely with universities. The professors there are brilliant people and they're the ones on top of all the research. I interact with them, and that's my shortcut for staying on top of all the reading,” he explains.

The benefits of the interaction go both ways: Atkinson points to student field trips as one of the highlights of his job.

“The professors will bring their class and introduce them to various deposit types, or aspects of the geology, structure, or alterations. They keep you on the ball because they always ask good questions, too,” he says.

Conceptualizing things and coming up with new ideas that can be tested and explored by industry or prospectors is a main component of Atkinson’s role. “We're always looking for new, economic mineral deposits and thinking of new ways they might occur that hadn't been thought of before.”

The resident geologists’ ability to serve as a conduit between industry and academia can yield impressive results.

“If there's a new discovery that's completely bizarre, then one has to ponder, ‘oh, what's this?’ Ultimately that's one of the main components of our role: Conceptualizing things, coming up with new ideas that can be tested and explored by industry or prospectors. We're always looking for new, economic mineral deposits and thinking of new ways they might occur that hadn't been thought of before.”

This is precisely what happened with the recent discovery of CôtéGold, now being developed by IAMGOLD: Atkinson’s office was instrumental in identifying the discovery as a porphyry-type deposit – with significant implications for the region’s future development.

“Once you get something like that, you start looking at where else you might find those things. We look at the big picture of things and try to direct exploration in areas that might be most favourable for new discoveries.”

As the regional geologists’ arsenal of models grows, so does the promise of Ontario’s mineral wealth. Companies looking for new exploration targets are certain to find the province’s regional resident geologist program a valuable resource.


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