Yellowknife Core Sample Facility - Q&A

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Core samples are important assets for mineral explorers and curious scientists. They hold millions of years in geological information and are ground zero for identifying mineral deposits. The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is developing a space in the NWT capital where more than 100 kilometres of drill core collected over decades will be stored for public use. We sat down with the GNWT project lead Scott Cairns, Manager of Mineral Deposits and Bedrock Mapping for the Northwest Territories Geological Survey (NTGS), to talk about the space, and what it could mean for industry and science in the NWT.

Q: When will the site be open?

A: The site is planned to open to the public in the summer of 2017. The building is ready to go and the materials will be organized and in place by that point.

Q: How does a facility like this benefit industry?

A: Drilling is expensive. The cost works out to, at minimum, $100 per metre and costs can rise in more complicated areas. Having a cache of drill samples from past exploration activities provides readily available mineral samples of known mineral deposits so companies can easily examine the material for things that may have been missed, out of reach, or outside the scope of the original projects at low cost.

Q: Where are the core samples sourced?

A: We’ve worked with industry and scientific partners over many years to source these samples. We provide incentives like exploration work credits for companies who contribute samples to the collection.

Q: Are there any examples of companies in the NWT using samples on new opportunities?

A: There are two that come to mind immediately. TerraX, the most advanced gold exploration project in the territory currently, used collected core samples as a tool to inform their approach to exploring the area around Yellowknife. There were plenty of samples collected from the numerous past-producing mines around the city. The second is DEMCO Ltd.’s exploration project near Great Bear Lake. They analyzed the remnants from the Terra silver project with a different, multi-mineral frame rather than the silver-centric approach taken by the original explorers – and have been getting some really exciting results.

Q: What kinds of mineral deposits will be represented at the space?

A: Name a type of mineral deposit and the facility will likely have it. Of particular note, the facility will have the world’s largest publicly available collection of kimberlite. While we’re obviously best known for diamonds in the NWT, there is also a huge variety of other deposits with a wide range of minerals. We’ll be working to build a fully representative collection of NWT mineral deposits as we move forward. The facility will now centralize and formalize the process of accessing these materials.

Q: What other benefits could you see coming from the facility?

A: It’s a pretty unique facility in its size and scope – and a huge point of interest for world-class scientists and explorers. The focus on maintaining an extensive geological record has already piqued the interest of world-renowned geologist Graham Pearson, for example, who currently has a Ph.D. candidate, Stefan Poitras, working under his tutelage on NWT research. Mr. Poitras has developed an entirely new way of radiodating diamonds. Focusing high-end earth science on the North can only improve the quality and quantity of information for both industry and public audiences. In the case of science, more is always better.