Pioneer exploration R&D programme awarded C$5.1m grant

14th May 2013 By: Henry Lazenby - Creamer Media Deputy Editor: North America

TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – A nationwide research project led by the mining industry and carried out by Canadian universities has received the largest grant ever awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through its Collaborative Research and Development programme.

The C$5.1-million NSERC grant was formally announced on Tuesday by the Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear, matching close to C$7-million in cash and in-kind contributions from sponsors in the Canadian mining and exploration industry, acting through the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC).

The research project, known as the Footprints Project, would develop new tools for remotely sensing and assessing mineral deposits far below the surface, based on their subtle signals or footprints.

The initial grant application to NSERC included 17 Canadian universities and 24 industry partners. Since the project received official approval, the number of participating universities had grown to 24, while the number of industry partners had grown to 27.

"Ultimately, we believe the work we're pursuing can improve the way we approach mineral exploration and resource development in Canada and around the world," research chairperson in mineral exploration and professor of economic geology at Laurentian University Dr Michael Lesher said.

The universities would participate in the research collaboration under the leadership of Lesher and Goldcorp chairperson in economic geology and professor of earth sciences at the University of Ottawa Dr Mark Hannington.

"The unprecedented level of collaboration among the exploration industry, service providers, government institutions, researchers and universities sets a new standard for our industry," Barrick Gold VP for global exploration and chief geologist Dr Francois Robert added.

As one of the architects of the project, Robert used CMIC's industry-driven approach to innovation and brought in 27 industry sponsors for the large-scale research collaboration.

The partners included 14 service providers that were involved in the project from the early stages.

"The buy-in of a broad range of service providers and industry sponsors was crucial to ensuring the project had a commercialisation component. Most research proposals include acquiring data and generating knowledge, but the Footprints Project includes commercialisation as the extra step towards true innovation," CMIC's exploration research director Alan Galley noted.

CMIC chairperson John Thompson added that the project represented a significant milestone in the development of collaborative research projects.

“NSERC's recent decision to match the extensive funding from industry is a testament to CMIC's approach of partnership between industry, academia and government,” he commented.

CMIC said it aimed to ensure a fundamental shift in how innovation takes place, with the mining industry defining the significant technical challenges it needed to deal with, and CMIC matching proposed solutions to multiple funding sources.

The CMIC noted that the Footprints Project's industry sponsors and university research community shared a ten-year strategic vision that the success of the project should result in the development of a more permanent, national minerals-related research network.