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TitleBase and precious metal indicator mineral research at the Geological Survey of Canada
AuthorMcClenaghan, B; McMartin, I; Plouffe, A
SourceExplore 138, 2008 p. 12-15
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20070619
Subjectsgeochemistry; base metals; precious metals; analytical methods; tills; sphalerite; galena; mineral deposits; scanning electron microscope analyses; Thompson Nickel Belt; NICO deposit; Great Bear magmatic zone; indicator minerals; indicator mineral geochemistry
Illustrationssketch maps; analyses
ProgramTargeted Geoscience Initiative (TGI-3), 2005-2010
AbstractThe application of indicator mineral methods to diamond exploration is well established because much research has focused on the visual recognition of indicator minerals and their chemical characteristics in diamondiferous kimberlites. In Canada, kimberlite indicator mineral methods have been successfully applied to till and stream sediment sampling (McClenaghan & Kjarsgaard 2007) and contributed to the discovery and development of several diamondiferous kimberlites. This method relies, at least at the early exploration stage, on detecting the presence of 10s to 100s of oxide and silicate indicator mineral grains in till or stream sediments that have survived pre- and postglacial weathering as well as glacial transport. In contrast to kimberlites, base and precious metal exploration generally targets much larger mineralized or altered zones which will yield precious and sulphide minerals as well as oxide and silicate indicator minerals. These indicator minerals might not survive pre- or postglacial weathering or glacial transport. Limited research and case studies have been conducted that document the abundance and chemistry of indicator minerals characteristic of base and precious metal deposits and how these minerals survive weathering and glacial transport. The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) is addressing this knowledge gap through indicator mineral studies of known base metal deposits of various types across Canada, including magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE, Cu-Pb-Zn VHMS, Pb-Zn sedex and Fe-oxide Cu-Au/U (Fig. 1). Additional studies are being carried out on base and precious metal indicator minerals in areas with potential for porphyry, epithermal, volcanic hosted mineralization and sedimentary hosted Zn deposits. The objectives of the GSC research are: 1) to specify the indicator minerals that are indicative of various base and precious metal deposit types and to describe their properties; 2) to establish practical methods for their recovery from glacial and stream sediments and for their identification that can be routinely applied in exploration in glaciated terrain; 3) to apply these methods for establishing the mineralization potential of regions that are in need of new exploration; and 4) to transfer this knowledge base to the mineral exploration industry.
This research is being funded by the GSC's Targeted Geoscience Initiative TGI-3 (2005-2010) in partnership with CAMIRO, and by the Mountain Pine Beetle Project (2007-2009) centered in British Columbia. A study in northern Alberta was funded by the GSC's Northern Resource Development Program (2003-2007). The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the ongoing base and precious metal indicator mineral research at the GSC.