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As exploration programs focus on remote and concealed targets, the ability to recognize large ore-forming systems – from the most distal margins to high-grade cores – becomes increasingly important. Efforts are therefore under way to generate sophisticated “footprint” or “signature” models of high-value deposits.
The Footprints research project is a collaboration between industry and university and is managed by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) Exploration Innovation Consortium.
Research methodology involves constructing 3D footprint models of large systems, with an emphasis on geological, mineralogical, geochemical, and physical rock properties. These models will make it possible to identify ore-forming systems at district and deposit scales, and to navigate within them.
Goals include: detecting and mapping under cover and at depth; improving the resolution of subsurface geology; discriminating targets using readily available tools; improving signal-to-noise ratio; and reducing risk during exploration.
Researchers hope the effort will shed light on the processes controlling the distribution of ore-forming systems and enable them to predict where additional resources might be discovered. Most of the methodology developed during the project will have general applications across ore-forming systems and not be specific to individual deposit types.
Study sites include the McArthur-Millennium Trend in Saskatchewan (unconformity-related uranium), the Canadian Malartic disseminated gold deposit in Quebec, and the Highland Valley copper-molybdenumporphyry system in British Columbia.
Footprints is a 5-year project with an initial budget of $12.1 million and in kind support. So far, 25 companies have committed funding to the project, with the remaining funds coming from a proposed NSERC Co-operative Research Development grant.
More than 20 Canadian universities will be involved, with some 60 researchers and graduate students expected to participate.