Laurentian University To Lead Unique $12m Research Project

May 14, 2013 - An innovative geo-science research project involving universities and mining industry sponsors from across Canada is being supported by the largest research grant ever awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through its Collaborative Research and Development program.

The $5.1M NSERC grant was formally announced today by the Minister of State (Science and Technology), the Honourable Gary Goodyear. The NSERC funding is augmented by close to $7M in supportive funding from Canadian mining and related companies, acting through the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC). The multi-year project will involve more than 40 researchers in geosciences from universities across Canada. The research is being co-led by Dr. Michael Lesher, Research Chair in Mineral Exploration and Professor of Economic Geology at Laurentian University and by Dr. Mark Hannington, Goldcorp Chair in Economic Geology and Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Known as "Footprints," the ambitious research project is expected to enhance the ability of geologists to assess the range, depth and composition of ore-bodies and mineral deposits, even those lying hundreds of metres underground.

"Essentially, the work we're pursuing will allow us to better detect the subtle signals or 'footprints' of mineral deposits far below the surface," said Dr. Lesher, official grant-holder for the research project. "It will help us devise better tools for remotely sensing deeply buried ore bodies and ultimately, we believe it can improve the way we approach mineral exploration and resource development in Canada and around the world."

"Canada's economic competitiveness depends on supporting business-related research and development that drives innovation," said Minister of State Goodyear. "Our government remains committed to supporting partnerships that will create jobs and strengthen Canada's long-term prosperity."

"We have worked toward this kind of collaboration for many years, and we are proud to be leading this extensive program of scientific investigation, with our academic colleagues and with the support of our mining industry partners," said Dr. Patrice Sawyer, Vice-President, Research and Francophone Affairs, Laurentian University. "This project will demand the skills and talents of the best research minds in the field today, working through Dr. Lesher and Dr. Hannington. It is an exciting opportunity for the research community."

The initial grant application to NSERC included 17 Canadian universities and 24 industry partners. Since the project won official approval, the number of participating universities has grown to 24, while the number of industry partners has grown to 27.

Industry sponsors through CMIC will be contributing more than $2.8M in cash and $3.9M in-kind for the research project.

"This project results from an unprecedented level collaboration among the exploration industry, service providers, government institutions, researchers and universities," said Dr. François Robert, VP and Chief Geologist, Global Exploration at Barrick Gold Corporation and one of the chief architects of the "Footprints" project. "Such a level of collaboration sets a new standard for our Industry," he added.

The collaborative nature of the "Footprints" project represents a 10-year strategic vision, shared by the Canadian university research community and the members of CMIC. "Footprints" is expected to be a flagship project, forming the basis for a Networked Centre of Excellence (NCE). There are only 15 of these networks presently funded by the Canadian government, and "Footprints" is the first focusing research on the science of mineral exploration.

"The scope and scale of this project is a testament to Laurentian University's leadership in mining related research," said CMIC Executive Director Carl Weatherell. "This is a significant step toward maintaining Canada's role as a world leader in mineral exploration."