Mineralogical (Services for Mining Exploration and Prospectors)

Assessment of Geological Samples

The Instrumentation Laboratory (LUIL) is equipped to analyze the composition and structure of a wide range of geological samples. Complementary techniques include optical microscope petrography, x-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, inductively coupled plasma, fire assay and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.

LUCAS provides a variety of analytical techniques, so choosing the service that will provide the type of data you are looking for may be daunting. This chart is designed to help you decide what services would be suit the needs of your geological samples.

A Brief Comparison of Common Analytical Techniques For Geology 

 Optical Microscope/ PetrographyXRD (X-Ray Diffraction)SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) with Energy Dispersive X-ray SpectrometryICP Inductively Coupled Plasma - MS  or AES (Atomic Emission Spectrometry)Fire AssayFTIR Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometer
Reason for use:Phase analysis, textural analysisPhase analysisHigh resolution imagery; Elemental concentrations and mineralogy of a user defined point (EDX)Elemental concentrations of a bulk sampleElemental concentrations of precious metals (Au, Ag)Infrared analysis is used primarily for the identification of chemical functional groups in a compound or simple mixtures of compounds.
 Preparation:Thin sections cut from a slab of rockPowdered sample (as small as 2-4g)Polished thin sections or SEM discs cut from a slab of rockPowdered sample dissolved in acid (as small as 2-4g) with digestion method appropriate to desired results30g - 50g representative crushed samplePowdered sample (usually < 50 mg needed) or unmounted thin section
Cost:Moderate to high; need to pay for a trained individual to look at your sampleLowVariable; depends on level of detail desired and complexity of sampleLow to moderate, depending on number of elements that require quantificationLow to moderate, depending on number of samples and detection limitVery low
Speed:Moderate to slowFastVariable; depends on level of detail desired and complexity of sampleFast to moderateFastFast
Accuracy:Qualitative to semi-quantitative; will positively ID minerals and phase percentages can be estimated; based on the skill of the petrographerSemi-quantitative; will positively id minerals and phase percentages are estimated to about +/- 5%Qualitative to quantitative depending on purpose for use; use of proper standardization techniques increases accuracy and time spentSemi-quantitative to quantitativeQuantitativePrimarily a qualitative analytical technique
Ideal for:Most rock types, preferably unaltered with larger grain sizeAll rock types, including alteration minerals, zeolites, air sensitive samplesMost rock types, especially for determining zoning in minerals, elemental concentrations in a mineral and how it changes through a sampleAny rock type for major, trace and/or REE elementsAny rock thought to  contain gold, silver or other precious metalsQuick analysis of rocks and minerals for the presence or absence of functionalities associated with certain rock types. Eg  clays, talc, carbonates, etc have characteristic infrared signatures

Clay and Zeolite Analysis

You might be interested in this service if you:

  • are a geologist or a prospector
  • belong to a geotechnical engineering company
  • represent a mineral exploration company
  • have a professional interest in crystallochemistry
  • belong to an environmental engineering company

How you need to prepare the sample before submission. Instructions on sample submission

Send or drop off a small sample (as small as 2-4 grams). No other preparation on your behalf is required. If you would like your sample returned after analysis, please let us know.

What happens to your sample after we receive it. Analytical Methods and Technical Information.

We will pulverize the sample and run an x-ray powder diffraction scan. We utilize a search/match program and our house materials scientist compiles a short report on the composition of your sample.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Andrew Conly, Director, LUMINX
Phone: 807-343-8643

For Experimental Services, Fluid Inclusion Analysis, and Separations (e.g., heavy liquids)

Dr. Andrew Conly, Department of Geology
Phone: 807-343-8463 
Emailandrew.conly@lakeheadu.ca
Locations: Office CB4003; Labs CB2026 and CB2021A

Rare Earth Elements

Lakehead University's Centre of Analytical Services offers advanced mineral analysis to exploration and mining companies. The right mineralogical information can lead to increased profit.

You might be interested in this service if you:

  • are a geologist,
  • are a prospector,
  • represent an exploration company.
  • Imaging of the REE-host rock, both petrographic and high resolution imaging (using SEM)
  • X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis of mineral phases in the rocks, including semi-quantitative and quantitative assessments.

How you need to prepare the sample before submission. Instructions on sample submission

Send or drop off a small sample (as small as 2-4 grams). No other preparation on your behalf is required. If you would like your sample returned after analysis, please let us know.

What happens to your sample after we receive it. Analytical Methods and Technical Information.

We will pulverize the sample and run an x-ray powder diffraction scan. We utilize a search/match program and our house materials scientist compiles a short report on the composition of your sample.

 
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Francis Appoh, Manager
Phone: 807-343-8853
For more information, check out our technical bulletin on rare earth elements.

Semi-Quantitative Phase Analysis by XRD

You might be interested in this service if you:

  • represent a mineral exploration company,
  • are a prospector,
  • are a geologist, or
  • work for a chemicals company.

Semi-quantitative phase analysis of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks using x-ray powder diffraction techniques provides exploration companies and prospectors fast, cost-effective results over other methods such as petrography. Often times this technique is a useful pre-screen of samples, allowing for an assessment of the initial results of each sample before more expensive, time consuming techniques are applied.  

Results can be compiled in as little as 2-4 days. Note: This is a non-destructive technique- if you would like your samples returned, just ask! 

Where samples typically come from

  • mines
  • pit quarries
  • prospector claims

How you need to prepare the sample before submission. Instructions on sample submission

Send or drop off a small rock sample (as small as 2-4 grams). No other preparation on your behalf is required. If you would like your sample returned after analysis, please let us know. 

What happens to your sample after we receive it. Analytical Methods and Technical Information.

We will pulverize the sample and run an x-ray powder diffraction scan. We utilize a search/match program and our house mineralogist compiles a short report on the phase composition of your sample, along with semi-quantitative results. 

Some clients' problems we've solved

  • A prospector wanted to get a better understanding of the minerals found on his claim. Utilizing XRD we determined that the prospector had some minerals that could be of economic value, strengthening his case to sell his claim to an exploration company. 

Thin Section Preparation

You might be interested in this service if you:

  • represent a mineral exploration company,
  • are a prospector,
  • are responsible for materials procurement in road construction,
  • are a geologist.

Where samples typically come from

  • mines
  • pit quarries
  • prospector claims

Rock samples-typically cores or individual grab samples, require processing before they can be used for mineral analysis by either PLM (Polarizing Light Microscope, Microprobe and Scanning Electron Microscope/X-ray Microanalysis. The sample has to be thin enough for light to pass through in a light microscope and have a polished surface for electron microscope studies.

This is how we prepare your sample.

  1. Cutting a slab - A suitable size slab for mounting on a slide is cut from a piece of rock or drill core with a diamond saw.
  2. Initial Lapping of the Slab - The slab is labelled on one side and the other side is lapped flat and smooth first on a cast iron lap with 400grit carborundum, then finished on a glass plate with 600 grit carborondum
  3. Glass Slide is Added - After drying on a hot plate, a glass slide is glued to the lapped face of the slab with epoxy.
  4. Slab is sectioned - Using a thin section saw, the slab is cut-off close to the slide. The thickness is further reduced on a thin section grind. Powders are mixed with epoxy, then spread on a slide and allowed to cure. The surface is ground flat on the thin section grinder, then finished similarly to a thin sections.
  5. Final Lapping - A finished thickness of 30 microns is achieved by lapping the section by hand on a glass plate with 600 grit carborundum. A fine grinding with 1000 grit prior to polishing is optional
  6. Polishing - The section is placed in a holder and spun on a polishing machine using nylon cloth and diamond paste unitil a suitable polish is achieved for microscope or SEM studies.
  7. Final inspection
Download the PDF that shows the steps, complete with photographs.