Support for R&D in mining and petroleum

Jun 15th, 2011

Dr. Christopher Loomis, Minister Susan Sullivan, Mr.Glenn Janes and Dr. Mark Abrahams at the launch of GeoEXPLORE.
Support for R&D in mining and petroleum

Thirteen projects at Memorial have been given a $960,000 boost by the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The GeoEXPLORE program is a new directed research program aimed at enhancing geoscience R&D capacity, collaboration and innovation. The program targets five areas for R&D investment: research team awards; geoscience research tools and equipment; collaborative research opportunities; post-doctoral researchers; and industry-led R&D, technology development and demonstration.

Directed research is an internationally recognized program framework for accelerating R&D in priority areas, and is often characterized as thematic, problem solving, capacity building and collaborative.

“Leading-edge geoscience R&D plays a critical role in supporting mineral and petroleum exploration and development,” said Susan Sullivan, minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. “As Newfoundland and Labrador’s mining industry continues to grow, continued research and development will assist in greater exploration and development. These investments through the RDC mark a positive step in increasing the potential to develop new mines and invite new high-value business and technology development opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

Mining is the second largest industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, employing more than 4,900 people in rural areas of the province, while oil production represents almost 27.5 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador’s nominal gross domestic product. The total value of minerals and petroleum production in 2010 was $12 billion.

“Recognizing the exploration and development potential of Newfoundland and Labrador’s mining and petroleum industries, RDC will champion the program and work with industry, academia and government to identify collaborative R&D opportunities,” said Glenn Janes, chief executive officer, RDC. “This directed research investment will enhance the development of highly-qualified personnel, enable our researchers to access innovative tools and equipment as well as further research partnerships among industry, academia and government.”

The funding supports projects being led by researchers from Memorial University’s Department of Earth Sciences, Department of Chemistry, and Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is home to rich mineral resources, which offer students, faculty and industry partners tremendous opportunities to explore and discover,” said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research), Memorial University of Newfoundland. “This funding will build on Memorial’s world-class expertise in geosciences and also help us forge stronger relationships with the mining and petroleum industries.”

RDC is investing a total of $964,404.25 in the following 13 Newfoundland and Labrador-based projects; the total project costs add up to more than $1.7 million.

Provenance of Jurassic-Cretaceous reservoir sandstones from the Flemish Pass and Orphan Basins, offshore Newfoundland; $50,000 from RDC

This project will employ analytical techniques to determine the age, origin, and characterization of mineral grains in drill core retrieved from the Flemish Pass and Orphan sedimentary basins. This information will assist exploration by providing a better understanding of the thickness, distribution, porosity, and permeability of the reservoir sandstones -- factors that influence the capacity of the reservoir to host hydrocarbons. RDC’s investment is $50,000 of a total project cost of $85,000. The research team includes: Dr. Paul Sylvester (Memorial University); Amanda Kate Souders (PhD student/post-doctoral fellow, Memorial University); and Dr. Michael McDonough (Statoil Canada Ltd.).

Mineralogy, age and origin of rare metals at the Fox Harbour property, Port Hope Simpson, Southeastern Labrador; $50,000 from RDC

This project will enhance an understanding of the rare earth element (REE) potential for southeastern Labrador.  Field mapping and analysis of samples will provide data on mineral compositions, age of the minerals, and the spatial distribution and origin of the REE mineralization, thereby assisting in the determination of the most prospective rock units for exploration. RDC’s support will also help a full-time M.Sc. student expand his field experience and develop his analytical skills. RDC’s investment is $50,000 of a total project cost of $108, 216. The research team includes: Dr. Paul Sylvester (Memorial University); James Haley (M.Sc. student, Memorial University); Dr. Randy Miller (Search Minerals Inc.); and Dr. Charles Gower (Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador). 

Gold mineralization in central Newfoundland; $49,990 from RDC

This project will research several gold prospects and showings in central Newfoundland, the site of an ancient ocean basin. During the destruction of that ocean, numerous barren and gold-bearing quartz veins were emplaced in the rocks. Deciphering the origin and emplacement history of the veins through geochemical analysis, and predicting which ones are more likely to contain gold, will be the focus of this research. The ultimate goal is the development of a regional geological model for gold mineralization to help guide exploration. RDC’s investment is $49,990 of a total project cost of $62,390. The research team includes: Dr. Derek Wilton (Memorial University); Dr. James Conliffe (Memorial University); Dr. Hamish Sandeman (Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador); Dr. Graham Layne (Memorial University); Dr. Stephen Piercey (Memorial University); and Dr. Martin Feely (National University of Ireland).  

The mineralogy and form of rare-metal mineralization in the Red Wine District, central Labrador; $53,200 from RDC

This project seeks to provide a better understanding of the rare earth element (REE) mineralization in the Red Wine Mountains area of central Labrador. Several new prospects will be sampled and analyzed to identify the various mineral phases and their REE concentrations. This may lead to the recognition of a favourable mineralogy for REE mineralization as a guide to exploration, as well as understanding how REEs are disposed in the host minerals, an important consideration for potential mining and refining processes. RDC’s investment is $53, 200 of a total project cost of $91, 950. The research team includes: Dr. Derek Wilton (Memorial University); Wayne Reid (Rare Earth Metals Inc.); and an undergraduate-level student. 

Examination of sulphide mineral breakdown in the Voisey’s Bay sulphide mineralization and the natural sealing of sulphide bodies from oxidization; $49,650 from RDC

This project will investigate how the nickel-bearing rocks at the Voisey’s Bay mine became oxidized at the surface, and what trace-element signatures the oxidation process may have left in the altered rocks and the surficial environment. The detection of subtle markers indicating the pre-oxidation presence of nickel could lead to an important exploration tool for discovering new deposits. The project will also try to understand why nickel ore was not oxidized where the ore body was covered by glacial sand and gravel. This may provide a new way of preventing the acid-generating oxidation process from occurring in mine tailings by emulating the oxidation-inhibiting natural cover left by the glaciers. RDC’s investment is $49,650 of a total project cost of $415,700. The research team includes: Dr. Derek Wilton (Memorial University); Dr. Gary Thompson (Vale Inc.); and Dr. Paul Sylvester (Memorial University).

Biogeochemical “fingerprinting” of Voisey’s Bay Ni-Cu-Co sulphide, northern Labrador; $50,700 from RDC

This project will examine whether or not vegetation growing around and upon the Voisey’s Bay deposit takes up elements from the soil through its root systems that reflect the composition of the underlying bedrock and mineralization. Should traces of diagnostic elements be present, it could be indicating that prospective rocks lie buried beneath the soil and vegetative cover, thus identifying a potential exploration target. Analysis of the vegetation will be enhanced by the participation of a PhD student who will apply an analytical technique he developed for detecting uranium in vegetation in Labrador. RDC’s investment is $50,700 of a total project cost of $94,000. The research team includes: Dr. Derek Wilton (Memorial University); Dr. Gary Thompson (Vale Inc.); Dr. Paul Sylvester (Memorial University); and Praise Nyade (PhD Student, Memorial University). 

Evaluation of regional alteration, geochemical and isotopic haloes around the Voisey’s Bay sulphide deposits; $48,400 from RDC

This project will focus on ways of detecting the all-important, small-volume, nickel-bearing rock type in the Voisey’s Bay area. The ore-containing rock has been engulfed in much larger and younger rock   units, making the unexposed, volumetrically small targets difficult to find. By analyzing geochemical signatures in the surrounding rocks to detect any trace-element correlation with the mineralized rock, it may be possible to suggest a way of predicting where the fertile rocks lie buried. RDC’s investment is $48,400 of a total project cost of $104,200. The research team includes: Dr. Derek Wilton (Memorial University); Dr. Gary Thompson (Vale Inc.); Dr. James Conliffe (Memorial University); and Dr. Paul Sylvester (Memorial University). 

Olivine Geochemistry as an Exploration Indicator for Magmatic Ni-Cu Mineralization; $50,000 from RDC

This project will analyze the trace-element variations in the mineral olivine, to see if patterns occur that reflect concentrations of nickel-copper mineralization in the olivine-bearing host rock at Voisey’s Bay. Should patterns showing a positive correlation be discerned, their occurrence in other rock samples and drill core may suggest the nearby presence of mineralized zones, and hence possible exploration targets. New ore zones discovered could add to the reserves and mine life at Voisey’s Bay. RDC’s investment is $50,000 of a total project cost of $77,200. This includes a graduate-student stipend for a PhD student to continue his research on parts of the Voisey’s Bay deposit. The research team includes: Dr. Graham Layne (Memorial University), Florian Bulle (PhD student, Memorial University), and Dawn Evans-Lamswood (Vale Inc.). 

Alteration and mineralization of the Pope’s Hill rare earth element deposit, Labrador; $73,830 from RDC

This project will research rare earth element (REE) mineralization in the Pope’s Hill area, on the Trans Labrador Highway, to the west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in south-central Labrador. Geological mapping will be carried out with mineralized samples taken for analysis. This will identify the REE-containing mineral phases and help define their relationship to the host-rock formations, all significant guides for further exploration. Important information will also be gathered on where, how and when the REEs originated and were emplaced with potential implications for the rest of Labrador. RDC’s investment is $73,830 of a total project cost of $154,230. This includes support for a full-time M.Sc. student, both field and laboratory work and a part-time PhD student applying his expertise in isotope geochemistry to REE mineralization. The research team includes: Dr. John M. Hanchar (Memorial University); Peter Dimmell and other field personnel (Silver Spruce Resources Inc.); Alex N. Chafe (M.Sc. student, Memorial University); Christopher M. Fisher (PhD student, Memorial University), and Karalee McAskill (B.Sc. Honours student, Memorial University).

Gravimeter for academic/industry research and training; $91,144.25 from RDC

Funding is provided to acquire a gravimeter, a geophysical instrument that measures perturbations in the Earth’s gravitational field caused by the presence of rocks of various densities beneath the surface. The data, gathered by exploration gravity surveys in the field, may help in the detection of mineral deposits and petroleum-bearing structures. This instrument will be used extensively for student research and training at Memorial, as well as for collaborative projects with industry partners and will be the only locally owned gravimeter in the province. RDC’s investment is $91,144.25 of a total project cost of $108,994.25. The user group includes: Dr. Alison Leitch (Memorial University); Dr. Colin Farquharson (Memorial University); and others.

Portable XRF and Advanced Microscopy for Hydrothermal Alternation Studies Related to Mineral Deposits; $100,000 from RDC

Funding is provided for the acquisition of a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer that will permit "real time" chemical analysis of rocks, soils, minerals and ores in the field.  Before being deployed for research purposes, it will be tested and calibrated using several mineral prospects and deposits. The portable XRF will be the only one of its type in the province, and it should reduce exploration costs and risks by allowing for more rapid, on-site exploration decisions.  Researchers and students will be trained to use this field-portable method, and collaborations will be enhanced with mineral-industry partners. A low-magnification microscope and digital-camera system will also be acquired. RDC’s investment in this research tool is $100,000. The user group includes: Dr. Stephen Piercey (Memorial University) and other faculty, students and industry collaborators. Testing of the instrument is supported by: Dr. Jan Peter (Geological Survey of Canada); David Copeland (Paragon Minerals); Terry Brace (Cornerstone Resources); Larry Pilgrim (Rambler Metals and Mining Ltd.); Paul McNeill (Aurora Energy); and Dr. Lawrence Winter (Altius Resources).

Expanded Capability for Fluid and Melt Inclusion Research: Infrared Imaging System and High-T Microthermometric Stage; $47,490 from RDC

Funding is provided to expand the capabilities of the fluid-inclusion laboratory at Memorial University, allowing the study of microscopic inclusions in minerals using infrared illumination, and permitting glassy inclusions to be melted at twice the current temperature limit.  The improved melting capability will make glass inclusions readily characterizable under the microscope; the infrared illumination will permit the study of dark-coloured and metallic ore minerals.  The new equipment will provide the current facility with overall capabilities that are not available elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, supporting research on a number of important minerals with the potential for development of improved exploration models. RDC’s investment is $47,490 of a total project cost of $54,501. The user group includes: Dr. Graham Layne (Memorial University); Dr. Stephen Piercey (Memorial University); Dr. Paul Sylvester (Memorial University); and Dr. James Conliffe (Memorial University).

Detecting and quantifying baseline trace metal ion concentrations in treated process water at the Long Harbour Processing Plant using calixarene-functionalized cantilever sensors; $250,000 from RDC

This project intends to design a real-time water-quality monitoring method.  The method will employ molecules uniquely designed by the researchers and adapted to special sensors to detect specific metals in water at trace levels.  If successful, this will provide immediate detection should metals exceed prescribed limits, allowing corrections to be made and deleterious environmental impacts averted. RDC’s investment in this project also supports hiring two new post-doctoral fellows and two graduate students. RDC’s investment is $250,000 of a total project cost of $370,000. The interdisciplinary research team in chemistry and physics includes: Dr. Paris Georghiou (Memorial University); Dr. Luc Beaulieu (Memorial University); Dr. Kurt Headrick (Vale Inc.); and Stephen Bennett (Vale Inc.).