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Lakehead U establishing research chair in mineral exploration

Industry, government contributing to $2.15-million initiative that will advance search for new mineral deposits
Lac des Iles
Lac des Iles Mine northwest of Thunder Bay will play a pivotal role in new research being done into mineral exploration at Lakehead University. (Supplied photo)

Lakehead University has teamed up with government and industry on a $2.15-million initiative it hopes will speed up the process of mineral exploration, bringing more mines online to meet the need for metals used in green energy.

The Thunder Bay institution is creating a five-year Industrial Chair in Mineral Exploration, which will be held by Dr. Peter Hollings, the current chair of the school’s geology department.

Of the funds announced on Feb. 4, $375,000 comes from Impala Canada, the palladium miner that owns and operates Lac des Iles Mine near Thunder Bay.

Another $690,000 comes from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.

The remainder of the funding is being provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Lakehead University.

The investment is expected to create nine new jobs.

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Hollings and his team will work with Impala Canada and their geology team to analyze nickel, copper and platinum group elements and the associated geological attributes near the Lac des Iles Mine and the surrounding area.

The results will lead to new analytical models that will accelerate the exploration and mining of these strategic minerals, potentially reducing the development time of new mine sites.

Tim Hill, CEO at Impala Canada, called mineral exploration the “lifeline of the mining industry,” creating jobs and community development opportunities.

“We are providing unparalleled access to the geological database at our Lac des Iles Mine and regional exploration properties  ̶  a database that is several orders of magnitude greater than most academic-based geoscientific projects,” Hill said in a Feb. 4 Impala news release.

“We are confident this collaborative research will greatly enhance the potential for discovery of new mineral resources and have a significant impact on future growth and investment in the Thunder Bay mining district.

“Together, we hope to unlock nickel, copper and platinum group metals that are essential for the world's transition to green energy."

Located about 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Lac des Iles has been in operation for more than 25 years and employs roughly 700 people.

It’s one of only two primary palladium producers in the world.

In 2019, the mine was acquired by South African miner Impala Platinum Holdings when the company purchased North American Palladium and its assets for $1 billion, creating Impala Canada.