Slave Province Surficial Materials and Permafrost Study

Regions: North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: mining, permafrost, geochemistry, diamond exploration, glacial history

Principal Investigator: Elliott, Barrett R (2)
Licence Number: 15650
Organization: Northwest Territories Geoscience Office
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2015
Issued: Mar 12, 2015
Project Team: Barrett Elliott (project co-ordinator, Northwest Territories Geoscience Office), Phillipe Normandeau (scientific lead, Northwest Territories Geoscience Office), see project description for others

Objective(s): To collect permafrost and geotechnical data to inform future infrastructure development, and provide baseline geoscience data to inform decision making in the region.

Project Description: The Northwest Territories Geoscience Office in the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) has developed a large collaborative research project to determine the detailed glacial history and permafrost conditions of the central Slave Geological Province.

The project goals are to:
- stimulate the next round of diamond and metals exploration in the Slave Province
- collect permafrost and geotechnical data to inform future infrastructure development, and
- provide baseline geoscience data to inform decision making in the region.

These studies will provide a state of the art tool-set for future exploration and sustainable development in the region. Samples of glacial deposits from surface to bedrock would be collected by drilling and be analyzed for indicator mineral populations (diamond and metal), indicator mineral chemistry, glacial till characteristics (including ground ice) and geochemistry.

A two year helicopter-supported and Snowcat supported overburden drilling and surficial mapping campaign is proposed to cover the Lac de Gras region, with the potential for an additional three years to extend coverage further south. Samples of glacial deposits from surface to bedrock would be collected by drilling and be analyzed for indicator mineral populations (diamond and metal), indicator mineral chemistry, glacial till characteristics (including ground ice) and geochemistry. This will be carried out by a qualified geoscience contractor and supervised by NTGO staff. A portion of the drilling would be directed towards a targeted study of indictor mineral entrainment and transport under various glacial and late stage glacial-fluvial processes. Another portion of the project will develop regional understanding of ice movement history and transport vectors within a regional framework. This work will be accompanied by targeted surficial mapping, sampling and traverses which may require below-threshold temporary tent camps. These projects will be effective in promoting the discovery of base and precious metal deposits.

The drill core will be used by both the mineral exploration related program and the regional permafrost and ground ice study. The permafrost study would consist of logging drill holes for geotechnical properties including ice content, with the installation of thermistors at strategic locations. This will provide baseline ground ice information as well as a starting point of longer term permafrost temperature monitoring and modeling to determine the climate change sensitivity of the permafrost. This knowledge base is critical to support sustainable development, as site selection and design of infrastructure require knowledge of the variability in present conditions as well as likely future states. The proposed permafrost investigations will constitute a world-class dataset and these activities present an opportunity for key partners to develop data management and analytical methodologies that will create a new global standard.

Scientific studies are proposed in collaboration with various academic partners. The data generated will be used to develop models for indicator mineral entrainment in tills by analyzing the results from the drilling. Targeted, detailed surficial mapping will be carried out to refine ice flow direction, and provide models for esker formation and indicator mineral transport distances. Longer term datasets relating to understanding variability in ground ice and ground temperatures conditions as well as predictive modeling and mapping will be provided.

The results of the project can be presented to local communities to help educate about mineral exploration, glacial history and permafrost issues.

All the data generated in this project will be made publically available. The new datasets and models will be available as open files and will be integrated in the KIDD / KIMC databases where appropriate.
Pre- and post- project meetings will be held to inform interested parties of the scope and results of this project.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 12, 2015 to December 31, 2015.