Exploration – Footprints

Project overview

Mineral exploration in Canada is increasingly focused on concealed and deeply buried targets, requiring more effective tools to detect large-scale ore-forming systems and to vector from their most distal margins to their high-grade cores. The Footprints project was formed to aid the mining industry in discovering the next generation of mineral deposits.

This project developed new approaches to ore system modeling using more effective integration and visualization of multi-parameter geological-structural-mineralogical-lithogeochemical-petrophysical-geophysical exploration data using GEOSCIENCE Integrator®, self-consistent GOCAD® 3D Common Earth Models, and geostatistical/machine learning technologies (e.g., clustered heat maps, K-means clustering, self-organizing maps, Hypercube).

Expected outcomes and benefits

Thus far 98 vectors (35 in metasedimentary rocks, 63 in mafic dikes), 20 footprints (9 in metasedimentary rocks, 11 in mafic dikes), and 4 halos in Quaternary sediments have been identified at the Canadian Malartic stockwork-disseminated Au deposit; 18 vectors and 7 footprints have been identified at the Millennium unconformity U deposit and 14 vectors and footprints have been identified at the McArthur River unconformity U deposit; and 15 vectors and footprints have been identified in the Highland Valley porphyry Cu system.
For the first time, these have been assembled into comprehensive models that will serve as landmark case studies for data integration and analysis in today’s challenging exploration environment.

For more details visit the project web page click here + [LINK DOES NOT WORK]

Project team

The project was led by Professor Michael Lesher at MERC/HES and Professor Mark Hannington at Ottawa/Kiel and involves 24 universities, 29 faculty researchers, 15 mining and mineral exploration companies (Agnico-Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick, Cameco, Denison Mines, Franklin Geosciences, Gold Fields, HudBay Minerals, Iamgold, Kinross, Orano, Teck, Yamana Gold), 4 geochemical service companies (Actlabs, ALS, SGS, SRC), 5 geological and geophysical service companies (Abitibi Geophysics, CGG, DGI, PGW, SRK Consulting), 6 software service companies (Geosoft, Geovia, MIRA Geoscience, Paradigm, Pitney-Bowes, Reflex), and 4 collaborating agencies (Geological Survey of Canada, Ministère des Ressources naturelles du Québec, Saskatchewan Geological Survey, Geologic Survey of British Columbia). It has trained 15 post-doctoral fellows and research scientists, 9 PhD students, 16 MSc students, 6 BSc Honours students, 17 BSc laboratory assistants, and 17 BSc field assistants.


On May 14th, 2013, the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, officially announced that the federal government will support the CMIC-developed Footprints Project through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Cooperative Research Development Grant (CRD). The objective of the CMIC-Exploration Innovation Consortium (EIC) Footprints Project is to develop new and innovative approaches to more effectively target hidden ore deposits through multi-parameter, integrated exploration.

Industry support

The Footprints Project marks the first CMIC project to successfully gain extensive support from industry, academia and government. With 35 industry partners (and 27 industry sponsors), 40 researchers from 24 Canadian universities, and NSERC funding of $5.1 million, the project is truly an example of the kind of collaboration CMIC will continue to develop for the purpose of innovation and commercialization in mining.

In fact, the buy-in of 14 service providers was crucial to the commercialization component of the project. “Most research proposals include acquiring data and generating knowledge, but Footprints includes commercialization as the extra step towards true innovation. This could only have been achieved with the buy-in of a broad range of service providers as well as industry sponsors,” says Alan Galley, CMIC’s Exploration Research Director.

In order to put together a national, multi-year project, Footprints needed mineral industry support of over $7.5 million in cash and in-kind support to make it eligible for matched NSERC funding of over $1 million/year. To gain this level of support, the university co-investigators, supported by the Exploration Innovation Consortium (EIC) Technical Committee, crafted a cohesive project plan that caught the imagination of potential industry sponsors. The Exploration research director worked with potential sponsors to ensure the project could deliver on their short and long-term research priorities.

Research proposal

The result was what many of the industry sponsors consider to be one of the best and most comprehensive research proposals that has reached out to the broader community of exploration/mining companies and service providers. In keeping with the strategic approach as encapsulated by the Footprints business case, this will be just the first step in establishing a cohesive research network across Canada that will make the Canadian mineral exploration community more globally competitive.

The EIC Technical Committee and Canadian university research community share a 10-year strategic vision, in which the Footprints flagship project would form the basis for a Canadian Networked Centre of Excellence (NCE). There are only 15 of these presently funded by the federal government, and none are related to research in the mineral exploration industry.

Additional resources

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