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Mineral Detection

Robert Kerrich and Derek Syman at the University of Saskatchewan became pioneers in applying new detection methods for base-precious metals, with the potential for giving Canadian mining companies a decided advantage in evaluating new finds. The two researchers used mass spectrometry to analyse chemicals in rock samples, with detection levels as low as one part per billion. In 1999, Kerrich was awarded the Willet G. Miller Medal by the Royal Society of Canada for exceptional contributions to Canadian geoscience: he had provided the first clear evidence that the Earth’s ancient oceanic and continental crust avalanched 3,000 km towards the Earth’s core and returned to the surface as volcanoes. He also developed the standard model of how gold deposits are formed by fluids circulating through ancient mountain belts in areas where plates of the Earth’s crust once collided. Recently, Kerrich led a $1 million research project for a consortium of fourteen Canadian mining companies. The four-year project used high-tech equipment to detect trace elements in rocks; results may help pinpoint ancient volcanic belts in the Canadian Shield likely to contain precious mineral resources such as gold.

Joe Ralko

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