Twenty-four Canadian mining companies, 17 universities and a federal agency have teamed up in a five-year, $11.8-million project to advance mineral exploration techniques. Announced May 14 to mark National Mining Week, the Footprints program “is expected to enhance the ability of geologists to assess the range, depth and composition of ore bodies and mineral deposits, even those lying hundreds of metres underground,” according to a statement from Laurentian University.
The money comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, a federal agency that’s contributing $5.1 million, and the Canada Mining Innovation Council, an industry group that’s putting up $2.8 million in cash and another $3.9 million in kind. The project will involve over 40 geoscientists from universities across Canada.
“Essentially the work we’re pursuing will allow us to better detect the subtle signals or ‘footprints’ of mineral deposits far below the surface,” stated Michael Lesher, research chairperson in mineral exploration and professor of economic geology at Laurentian University. “It will help us devise better tools for remotely sensing deeply buried ore bodies and, ultimately, we believe it can improve the way we approach mineral exploration and resource development in Canada and around the world.”
Francois Robert, VP and chief geologist for global exploration at Barrick Gold TSX:ABX, said the project “results from an unprecedented level of collaboration among the exploration industry, service providers, government institutions, researchers and universities. Such a level of collaboration sets a new standard for our industry.”
An NSERC statement added that grants like these “enable companies to access the expertise, knowledge and facilities at universities and provide training to students in the essential technical skills required by industry.”
In a separate news release CMIC exploration research director Alan Galley said, “The buy-in of a broad range of service providers as well as industry sponsors was crucial to ensuring the project had a commercialization component. Most research proposals include acquiring data and generating knowledge, but Footprints includes commercialization as the extra step towards true innovation.”
Watch a video of Francois Robert discussing the Footprints project: Exploration can be “like trying to find a needle in a haystack but through the roof of a barn.”