February 2011


Innovation for exploration

By Tom Hynes

Exploration is one of Canada’s success stories, both in terms of the global influence of its major and junior companies and in terms of the wealth created in the country. Of the 1,844 international companies that spent more than $100,000 on mineral exploration in 2009, 991 of them were based in Canada. However, the rate of new discoveries in Canada (and abroad) has declined in the last two decades. In order to meet the increasing demand for mineral resources through new discoveries in this country and to maintain the competitiveness of its exploration industry, renewed efforts and investments in coordinate exploration-related R&D will be required.

The Canada Mining Innovation Council’s (CMIC) Exploration Innovation Consortium consists of a group of 15 large and small exploration and mining companies operating domestically and internationally and covering a wide range of commodities, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the Geological Society of Canada, who have been working collectively for the past year to identify and address the needs of the Canadian exploration sector. The consortium is led by industry champion François Robert of Barrick Gold Corporation and is supported by the efforts of Dick Tosdal, formerly of the Mineral Deposit Research Unit at the University of British Columbia.

Project development

The consortium has made a significant amount of progress in identifying and articulating the research needs of the Canadian exploration industry over the next five to ten years. An integrated program to promote the discovery of remote, undercover and deep mineral deposits has now been developed and, over the course of 2011, research projects will be implemented on three main themes:

  • Discovery criteria (to help focus exploration efforts)
  • Discovery and delineation technology (to improve detection technologies)
  • Extraction of data to improve knowledge (to improve the use of data in the search for deposits)

The two to four initial projects set to begin in 2011 will be followed up by a number of others coming on line each year. Because one of CMIC’s objectives is to foster collaboration within the mining research community, emphasis will be placed on larger, multi-institution projects. Therefore, proposals that call for the collaboration of researchers from different universities or research centres on a given project will be strongly encouraged.

To ensure the success of the group’s research projects, the consortium hopes to hire a program director in 2011.

Spreading the word

Over the past few months, the consortium has put a great deal of effort into informing the exploration and geoscientific communities of its progress to date and its plans for the future. Robert and Tosdal have also attended a number of provincial exploration conferences to present CMIC’s exploration activities to the broader community, which generated formal and informal meetings to encourage further discussion of our plans.

For more information on the Exploration Innovation Consortium contact CMIC at info@cmic-ccim.org.

Tom Hynes
Tom Hynes has worked in the uranium and base metals industries, and has been a provincial regulator and a federal government research manager. He is the executive director of the Canada Mining Innovation Council.

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