New research demonstrates potential to unearth minerals from snow, soil and trees


Researchers in Canada have developed new analytical methods that enable miners to use snow, soil and trees to discover buried mineral deposits, as part of a new project funded by Geoscience BC.

The methodologies created new laboratory techniques and are expected to reduce the environmental impact of mineral exploration.

The project measured the concentration of the halogen elements fluorine, bromine, chlorine and iodine in samples that have been collected from Vancouver Island at the Mount Washington gold-copper-silver prospect and the Lara zinc-copper-lead-silver-gold showing.

Geoscience BC minerals and mining vice-president Bruce Madu said: "Bringing these techniques closer to practical application helps to reduce the impact of mineral exploration work and builds valuable intellectual property right here in British Columbia."

Titled ‘An assessment of the use of halogens and volatile compounds in vegetation, soil and snow in the exploration for concealed deposits: case histories from Lara and Mount Washington, Vancouver Island’, the project was also supported by the British Columbia ministry of environment, and activation laboratories.

"Bringing these techniques closer to practical application helps to reduce the impact of mineral exploration work and builds valuable intellectual property right here in British Columbia."

The samples were collected by trapping 'tree sweat' in plastic bags.

Geoscience BC noted that collectors buried in the ground for a period of several months to passively absorb ions were used to sample halogen elements in soils.

Snow was also sampled as it has the ability to intercept and hold halogen elements.

Project leader Dave Heberlein said: "We have now shown that these techniques are effective on Vancouver Island, but we still have a way to go before they can be widely used by the mineral exploration sector.

“More work is required to optimise sample types in other common forest types such as the spruce, lodgepole pine or Douglas-fir forests of the interior."

ALS Minerals offered project assistance by developing new procedures and techniques for measuring low-level halogen element concentrations.