The hunt for more diamonds and minerals in the Slave Geological Province (SGP) will also have the added impact of supporting regional research on changes to permafrost and ground ice conditions, according to territorial geologists.
The NWT Geological Survey, formerly known as the Geosciences Office, is currently undertaking work in the geological area of the North Slave examining leftovers from glacial events that could point to more minerals and metals, like diamonds and gold.
According to the survey, “unconsolidated,” or loose, surface materials deposited by glaciers known as “tills”have previously been used to discover kimberlite bodies and concentrations of minerals and metals. Now, geologists are looking below the surface to trace back previous glacial events to find older deposits that might hold new findings.
“These older glacial deposits contain valuable information that can help guide companies and prospectors to exploration targets,” Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister David Ramsay told The Journal in an email following his tour of the SGP last week. “The study will use a drill to bore down through these glacial deposits and take samples of these deposits. This knowledge is expected to enhance the effectiveness of diamond and metal exploration in the SGP.”
The drilling program won’t only serve to boost the mining industry, however. Ramsay said the research will also support a regional study of geotechnical and permafrost characteristics in the SGP.
“The glacial deposits will also be examined for their ice content and other changes in permafrost and ground ice conditions,” he said. “This work will illustrate potential risks and inform mitigation measures associated with infrastructure planning, development and remediation.”
Thermistors, or temperature sensitive resistors, will be installed in approximately 30 holes at various depths to provide ongoing monitoring of the permafrost over a multi-year time frame.
Ramsay said the research will benefit regulators and other decision makers.
“The regional scale of this work is unprecedented for the NWT and will greatly advance the environmental geoscience knowledge of the SGP,” he said.
The bulk of the data collection is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2015, with initial data coming available in spring 2016 and more in-depth analyses following as publications and scientific studies.
The project is being funded by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), with totals of over $1.5 million for 2014-15 and over $1.9 million in 2015-16.
Partners on the project include Dominion Diamond Corp., Diavik Diamond Mines and other industry partners, along with the University of Waterloo, Simon Fraser University, Carleton University and the University of British Columbia. The Canadian Mining Innovation and Research Organization has also been engaged to provide strategic planning and project guidance services.