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Innovative geochem sampling takes to the tree tops

by Greg Klein | April 11, 2016


Even if money doesn’t grow on trees, they might hold traces of valuable metals. So Geoscience B.C. used a helicopter to clip spruce branches over an especially difficult-to-access part of British Columbia. On April 11 the non-profit released the results, hoping to evaluate the technique’s potential to help find deposits.

“It’s well established that coniferous trees such as spruce can pick up metals and other elements from the soil and concentrate them in the bark, twigs and needles,” said Bruce Madu, Geoscience B.C.’s VP of minerals and mining. “Through this program, we hope to provide new information that will encourage people to take a fresh look at the area’s mineral potential.”

Innovative geochem sampling takes to the tree tops

The TREK program uses innovative, multidisciplinary approaches
to geological understanding. (Photo: Geoscience B.C.)

He was referring to 1,000 square kilometres within central B.C’s Fraser Plateau. Although parts of the wider region have undergone geochemical sampling, the spruce survey focused on an area that’s been neglected due to especially thick forest, with few lakes or roads. About 15 klicks north New Gold TSX:NGD advances its Blackwater project, a proposed open pit with proven and probable reserves of 8.2 million ounces gold and 60.8 million ounces silver.

Whether twigs and needles can help find a similar deposit remains to be seen. Samples from 399 trees spaced 1,500 metres apart have been analysed, with detailed results available here.

The survey forms part of Geoscience B.C.’s Targeting Resources through Exploration and Knowledge project, a multidisciplinary approach to better understand the geology of a 24,000-square-kilometre chunk of land. TREK procedures include stream, lake, soil and till sampling, as well as airborne geophysics, mapping and mineral deposit studies.

The $4-million program is Canada’s largest publicly funded project of its kind. The organization makes its data available not only to the exploration sector but also to the public for land use planning and community awareness. In January Geoscience B.C. released airborne magnetic data for a 6,700-square-kilometre expanse of the province.

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