Lakehead and Impala partner in research

Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A new research project at Lakehead University announced on Feb. 4, could impact the mining industry in northern Ontario and globally.

Greg Rickford, MPP for Rainy River, minister of energy northern development mines and minister of Indigenous affairs, Tim Hill, president and CEO of Impala Canada and Dr. Moira MacPherson, president and vice-chancellor of Lakehead University shared the details of the project over zoom.

Rickford announced that the province is providing more than $690,000 for a new industrial research chair at Lakehead that will focus on mineral exploration. Funding is being delivered through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). The investment will help create nine new jobs and support new research innovation in Thunder Bay.

In addition, Lakehead, Impala Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council is providing funding for the five-year project, totalling $2.15 million.

“Lakehead’s northern location and our track record in research and innovation make us an ideal place to establish this new research chair,” MacPherson said. “It aligns with our priority on sustainability resources in the environment and with a research focus on improving mining exploration methods.”

Pete Hollings, professor and chair of Lakehead’s geology department will take on the role of the new industrial research chair. He and his team will work with Impala Canada and their geology team to develop new models that “should lead to the discovery of new mines, increased exploration and importantly, the creation of new jobs.”

Hollings and his team will also analyze nickel, copper and platinum group elements and the associated geographical attributes in the area currently only mined in the Lac Des Iles mine.

“The detailed analysis may help the development of new analytical models that could increase mining exploration, prospecting and development activities in northern Ontario and it could significantly reduce the time required to develop new mine sites,” Rickford said. “The project has the potential to extend northern Ontario’s presence in the global mining sector.”

MacPherson said a major challenge for researchers in the mining industry is effective techniques to distinguish potential host rocks from those that are barren. She adds that analytical equipment located at Lakehead will help to develop an enhanced understanding of the geology and the genesis of mineralization.

“This project will help both Ontario and Canadian mining companies enhance exploration efficiency by reducing the time and capital costs requires in the discovery of mineral resources,” MacPherson said.