Laurentian University

Metal Earth

Metals are essential to society (e.g., in agriculture, shelter, health, communication and transportation). In the developing low-carbon-energy economy, metals will be required for energy and infrastructure. Secure supply underpins economic and social sustainability, and must meet future demands of a rapidly growing world population.

Metals are a principal driver of Canada’s economy, constituting 19.6 per cent of Canada’s exports and 4 per cent of its GDP. Production will underpin Canada’s Far North development, and our sovereignty. Metals are a finite resource. Deposits must be continually discovered to meet growing global needs.

Metals are, ultimately, derived from Earth’s mantle during the differentiation and episodic periods of crust development, and have been continuously supplied as subeconomic contents to the crust by magmas and fluids. To be exploitable, metals must be superconcentrated, through natural processes, into ore deposits. These deposits are extreme examples of localized metal endowment.

Common understanding of metal endowment stems from research on individual, known deposits, aimed at developing models for formation. However, deposit-focused research has not provided understanding of how ore systems relate to processes operating at the continental scale. Ore deposit models alone cannot differentiate between areas of similar geological attributes but different metal endowment. This knowledge gap has contributed to decreased discovery of metals, jeopardizing metal supply and societal sustainability.

Metal Earth’s team of more than 100 professionals and students will, for the first time, compare endowed and less-endowed areas of Earth’s crust that are otherwise geologically similar. Complex, multidimensional geoscience data will be integrated and processed, to produce 4D images from surface to mantle—virtual “MRIs” of the Earth—as a tool to identify key metallogenic differences.

Metal Earth will transform our understanding of metal endowment during Earth’s evolution; make Canada a world leader and innovator, through the open-source delivery of new knowledge, new quantitative exploration guidelines and new technology; and contribute to the expansion of Canada’s mineral wealth through new discoveries.