Collaborative mining research project wins innovation award

December 19, 2014 – Thunder Bay, ON

A breakthrough in mineral analysis that Lakehead University helped create has won an Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Award at a gala in London, England. 

This year, the accolade in the ‘Measurement in Action’ category went to the University of Tasmania, Imperial College London, Natural History Museum, Lakehead University, and AMIRA International for development of laser ablation analysis for enhanced discovery of mineral resources. The new analysis process allows explorers to predict distance and likely occurrence of metal resources.

“This collaboration has been running for 10 years and has developed new technologies that have been widely adopted by the minerals industry in Canada and abroad,” said Dr. Peter Hollings, Chair of Lakehead’s Geology Department and Director of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Mining and Exploration.

“This award shows that collaborative research projects can help Lakehead develop a truly international reputation as a leader in mineral deposit research,” said Dr. Andrew Dean, Vice-President, Research, Economic Development and Innovation.

Over the years, this research has supported the work of four MSc students at Lakehead, allowing them to collaborate with the world's leading mineral deposit research groups and major mining companies and setting them up for successful careers in industry or academia. 

“We are very proud of our Lakehead students and faculty for being recognized for their work in this innovative international research project,” said Dr. Brian Stevenson, President & Vice-Chancellor of Lakehead University. “It speaks to their ability to take unconventional approaches to issues and turn them into practical applications.”

“Congratulations to this international team for their win. They were selected from a highly impressive set of global innovations as one of the most forward thinking, pioneering innovations in the field,” said William Webb, IET President.

“The IET Innovation Awards celebrate the best in global innovation, highlighting the rapid and exciting pace of development in today’s engineering and technology industry,” Webb added.

This innovation, which is already in the market, uses a laser to remove material from a mineral source. Explorers can then analyse the set of samples to make predictions about the likely occurrence, style and location of mineral resources.

It has achieved more than was initially expected, particularly in terms of the capability to predict distance to mineralisation from samples located many kilometres away. The tool significantly increases the exploration “footprint” which can be used to recognise the presence of a resource, and then to explore efficiently within that footprint to locate it.

Comments from the judging panel:

"This entry has used clever integration of different technologies to provide a new analytical tool for mineral prospecting.”

"It demonstrates excellent innovation and has the potential to reduce the environmental impact and energy cost of mineral exploration.”

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In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by its Strategic Plan (2013-2018), Lakehead is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. 

Maclean’s 2015 University Rankings places Lakehead University 2nd in Ontario and among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities, and 1st among Ontario’s undergraduate universities for Total Research Dollars, Social Sciences & Humanities Grants, and Library Expenses. In 2014, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead 2nd in Ontario and 3rdamong Canada’s undergraduate universities.