Research in Action: Student builds a rock-solid foundation

 Published in The Chronicle Journal Thursday, June 9, 2022


It seems minerals have been a constant for Justin Jonsson.

He grew up in the aptly-named community of Steep Rock and studied geology at the University of Manitoba. In 2018, he was working at the Lac des Illes mine when an opportunity to conduct research came up that he figured would be a great fit with his career plans.

“I started studying geology due to the opportunity to do scientific research in an outdoor, hands-on setting, and to travel and work alongside a variety of different groups of people,” he says. “Geology is a rapidly advancing field of science and it’s exciting to be exposed to new understandings of how the Earth evolved and continues to change.”

His research at Lakehead University involved collecting samples and drill core analysis at the Lac des Illes site. The samples were then examined under the microscope and submitted for geochemical analysis, including specialized isotope analysis performed by researchers in Vancouver and Perth, Australia. The research attempts to explain the processes by which palladium-rich ore deposits at LDI were formed.

Conclusions from his research are still being worked out, but preliminary results indicate that LDI ore likely formed via separation and mixing of magma (partially molten rock) and that different ore deposits in different parts of the mine formed in similar ways.

Jonsson has finished his classes and hopes to finish writing his master’s thesis this summer. But he’s already moved on to the next step: he’s now employed with the Resident Geologist Program division of the Ontario Geological Survey.

“It’s a good example of how this program has trained a geologist who wants to stay in the region,” says Dr. Peter Hollings, a professor in Lakehead’s Department of Geology and NOHFC Industrial Research Chair in Mineral Exploration, of the unique collaboration with Impala Canada, which operates LDI.

Jonsson credits his graduate experience with allowing him to work alongside other geoscientists in industry, academia and government.

“I have developed skills related to managing a large and complex research project, and have advanced my understanding of concepts related to igneous geology and geochemistry,” he says of the benefits he’s received.