Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry
October 2013

Vol. 18, No. 43 Week of October 27, 2013

Mining News: Research center aids mineral explorers

UBC professor draws on decades of studying the Klondike to introduce others to the challenge of unlocking the gold fields’ secrets

Rose Ragsdale

For Mining News

Explorers chasing mineral deposits in British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska are routinely getting expert assistance with their projects from researchers at the Mineral Deposit Research Unit of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

A collaborative venture between the mining industry and UBC, the unit was established in 1989 with support and financial assistance from the mining industry and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The unit is an integrated geologic and geophysical research program at UBC devoted to training students for employment in the industry and to solving research questions of interest to the community.

MDRU assists members by increasing the understanding of mineral deposits and methods that are used for their discovery through research projects, a resource center and advanced education.

Today, the unit and associated faculty in UBC’s Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences have established themselves as one of the best economic geologic research centers in Canada.

The unit is helping to unlock geological secrets that could shape the future of mineral exploration and development in western Canada and Alaska.

This year, UBC Professor Jim Mortensen, Ph.D., P. Eng., one of MDRU’s lead researchers and a scientific consultant to exploration companies, was the featured speaker at the 2013 Dawson Rocks conference held in Dawson City, Yukon Aug. 7.

Mortensen presented an overview on the results of the two-year Yukon Gold Project, including the White Gold deposit, which MDRU recently completed.

Mortenson, who has studied the geology of the Klondike for than 20 years, also led a crowd of about 30 geologists, prospectors and mining executives on a daylong field trip Aug. 8 into the fabled gold fields to examine orogenic gold occurrences and discuss the nature and origin of these and other deposits and occurrences in the Dawson Range and White Gold district.

The goal of the field trip was to introduce participants to the geology and structural evolution of the northern and central Klondike District.

“A lot of people are interested in the Klondike,” Mortensen observed early in the tour.

Among the findings of his recent research in collaboration with others is that gold-bearing orogenic quartz veins identified in a number of localities in the Klondike are believed to be the main source of the rich placer gold deposits in this area. A concentration of gold-bearing veins has been recognized at the head of rich placer ground on Eldorado and Bonanza creeks (including the Boulder Lode occurrence at the old Lone Star mine and the Nugget zone northeast of Eldorado Creek). A second concentration of gold-bearing veins in the King Solomon Dome area (including the Sheba occurrence) was interpreted as the main source for the pay streaks in streams that radiate out from this area, providing most of the gold that has been recovered from Hunker and Dominion creeks and part of the gold mined on Sulphur and Quartz creeks (Chapman et al., 2010).

While most of the stops on the field tour reflected either the Klondike’s rich gold mining history or current placer mining operation and hardrock exploration projects, Mortensen also included examples of non-gold-bearing rocky outcrops that occur in the area.

“It’s a body of rocks that doesn’t have any mineralization,” he said, describing a large outcrop near Kilometer 5 of the Klondike Highway. “They were formed on the ocean floor, and they’re part of the same package of rocks that contains asbestos up at Clinton Creek. They are not related to gold-bearing rocks in the Klondike, but their presence here could be significant.”

Mortensen also observed that some rocks in the Klondike gold fields appear to have the same structural composition as others but are actually totally different. For example, Klondike schist (200 MA) and Mississippian rocks (360 MA) are similar in appearance but have widely divergent economic potential.

“It’s critical that you know which ones you’re in,” he added.

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