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Evaluation of the Quaternary cover and topography of the rock of the Abitibi Greenstone Belt: implications for mineral exploration

Guillaume Rongier, Université de Lorraine-ENSG
Guillaume Allard, MRN
Olivier Rabeau, MRN

In areas buried under a thick layer of Quaternary sediments, bedrock depth and topography are important. In hydrogeology, these factors are used to assess the amount of groundwater available— whether in bedrock fractures or certain overlying Quaternary formations—and also to understand flow dynamics (Bolduc et al., 2004). In geotechnical engineering, a precise knowledge of bedrock depth is essential to ensure the stability of buildings. In geophysics, Quaternary sediments can vary the response of a site depending on their consolidation, thickness, water content or on undulations in the surface of the bedrock. For example, geophysical signal errors can be induced by the presence of valleys or depressions in the bedrock.

In mining, the study of the bedrock’s surface and the thickness of overlying unconsolidated Quaternary sediments not only helps to improve assessment of costs associated with drilling, but could also reveal new mineral resources. We already know that the deposits of the Abitibi Greenstone Belt are noted for being rich in Au, Cu, Zn and Ni. Historically, the deposits discovered and mined in this Belt were formed in the Archean. Some of them, such as volcanogenic massive sulphide (Cu - Zn) or magmatic Ni deposits, are syngenetic, meaning that they were formed at the same time as the host rock. Others, such as orogenic Au deposits, are epigenetic, that is, formed some tens of millions of years later.

Recently, saprolites have been discovered in holes drilled to study the Abitibi Greenstone Belt’s surficial deposits (Allard and Deschênes, 2011, Rongier et al., 2012). Note that saprolite is loose rock resulting from in-place chemical weathering (climate and/or hydrothermally induced) of bedrock.

These alteration zones are probably Tertiary or Quaternary in age (Kimpe et al., 1984) and supergene metal enrichment is often associated with them. Although they have economic potential, these zones are poorly documented in the Abitibi Belt. This is due to the fact that prospecting is based exclusively on the study of bedrock. The potential of the entire layer of overlying unconsolidated material, including possible saprolites, is not being investigated. Studying the depth and topography of bedrock could therefore lead to the discovery of areas with high potential for the preservation of saprolites, whose location could open up new areas for mineral exploration.

Study data

Three types of data were used: drilling data, surface data and topographic data. The data collected for this project comes from various sources, but mainly from the MRN’s SIGÉOM (geomining information system) database. Some of the data also comes from the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs (MDDEFP). In all, 416,984 data points were used for interpolation of the depth map (Figure 1).


After several tests using various interpolation techniques, the kriging method was used to generate the bedrock depth map. Using more stringent assumptions than other techniques, kriging has many advantages: it is an exact interpolator that takes into account spatial correlations between the data and minimizes estimation error. The method also provides access to this error, allowing the uncertainty of the prediction to be visualized. The spatial continuity of rock depth data has therefore been evaluated and interpolated by ordinary kriging.


For the most part, areas with significant depth to bedrock are related to eskers and known fault zones (Figure 2). The close association between significant depth to bedrock and eskers can be explained by the considerable amount of glaciofluvial sediments forming an esker and the significant deepening of the bedrock during emplacement of these geological features. The great depth to bedrock near faults, on the other hand, can be explained by the presence of a zone of damage and strong schistosity around these structures, creating more brittle areas where depressions develop in the bedrock. In addition, some faults acted as conduits for large quantities of hydrothermal fluids resulting in significant alteration zones in the study area. These zones are often rich in carbonates or white micas, which also make the host rock very brittle and more likely to produce troughs during the erosion process.

Most of the other areas with great bedrock depth that cannot be explained by the presence of faults are, as stated previously, due to the presence of buried eskers. They usually underlie Lake Ojibway clay deposits. During Quaternary mapping programs, they are identified by photo-interpretation as being continuous with eskers visible on surface. However, some areas cannot be explained by the presence of eskers or faults. This is particularly the case for the deep areas around Palmarolle, those southwest of Lebel-sur-Quévillon or those south of Val-Paradis. They occur mostly in areas where data is less abundant. They may therefore be interpolation artifacts. Further investigation will be needed to determine their origin.

Areas with high gold potential that have undergone supergene Au enrichment have been identified using the bedrock depth map. These sites were selected by superimposing the locations of faults and gold showings, and of old and existing mines. On that basis, areas with great depth to bedrock and located on mineralization-bearing faults were identified. Despite the lack of data on saprolites in the Abitibi Subprovince, these targets can already be considered as areas with interesting potential for supergene gold deposits.


Allard, G. - Deschenes, P-L - 2011 - Reconnaissance géologique de la région de la rivière Octave. Congrès Québec exploration 2011 (affiche).

Bolduc, A. - Riverin, M.N. - Lefebvre ,R. - Paradis, S. - Fallara, F. - 2004 - Modélisation de l’architecture 3D du segment sud de l’esker Saint-Mathieu - Berry reliée à la circulation de l’eau souterraine, région d’Amos, Abitibi. Proceeding of 57 Canadian Geotechnical Conference – 5th Joint IAH-CNC/CGS, p. 14–21.

Kimpe, C. R. D. - Lasalle, P. - Laverdière, M.R. – 1984 - A sub-till saprolite and the overlying soil profile near Mount Orford, Southern Quebec. Can. J. Soil Sci., 64:577–585.

Rongier, G. - Allard, G. - Rabeau, O. - 2012 - Évaluation du recouvrement quaternaire et topographie du roc de la ceinture verte de l'Abitibi : implications pour l'exploration minérale., Présentation, Congrès Québec Mines 2012.


Québec Mines 2012: A success from start to finish!

The first edition of the Québec Mines conference, held in Québec from November 26 to 29, 2012, was a resounding success. The conference attracted a record 6,000 participants, including 2,600 delegates, 2,300 primary and secondary school students and their teachers, nearly 800 members of the public who took advantage of the open house and about 300 job seekers. More than 300 commercial, government, geoscience and institutional exhibitors and prospectors also responded to the MRN’s invitation. This success confirms the relevance of holding a conference that brings together all of Québec’s mining industry stakeholders.

High-calibre program

Under the theme "Of Mines and Men", a theme that focuses on the human aspect and under the honorary chairship of Dominique Dionne, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Xstrata Nickel and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Québec Mining Association, the Québec Mines 2012 conference featured a comprehensive program, covering all aspects of mining development.

The highlights of the conference include the plenary session on where Québec stands in terms of global mining development trends; the workshop on the implementation of an international component to Québec Mines 2013; the activities of the recruitment and human resources module and those on the role of women in the mining industry; the Québec Mines EXPLO Challenge; and the release of two books, Des mines et des hommes and Notions de géologie.

Québec Mines also included:

  • Two plenary sessions
  • One hundred technical sessions and promotional presentations
  • A geotourism outing
  • Seven interactive presentations
  • A session on entrepreneurship in the mining industry
  • An employment and career fair
  • Presentation of the new 2012 geological map

Recognizing excellence

At the conference, the MRN and the Association québécoise des sciences de la Terre (AQUEST) (Québec earth science association) also held their annual awards ceremony. Two awards recognized excellence in students in the earth sciences and mining engineering. Another prize, the Marteau d’or, was awarded to researchers for scientific work that significantly contributed to the advancement of knowledge and sustainable development in Québec. See the press release (in French) for the recipients’ names.

Québec Mines for all

Québec Mines for all, the educational, employment and general public component of Québec Mines, was also an unqualified success! Salon M4S, an interactive exhibition on mining, metals, minerals and materials, delighted thousands of students and adults. Activities included simulating the rescue of a miner in distress, operating a power shovel simulator, learning to recognize certain minerals and being photographed dressed as miners. The workshops of the employment and career fair allowed 300 participants to discover mining industry trades and professions, as well as career opportunities.

Québec Mines

The following videos provide a summary of each day of the Québec Mines 2012 conference:

Video 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQtqymV2yLk
Video 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQwfRIxUCrI
Video 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_IZ7_cvSL0
Video 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDxP7Al7bWw

(If you have problems viewing the videos, see the Documents page of our website.)

Women in the spotlight

Joanie Vallerand

Click image to enlarge

From left to right: Line Lagacé, Renée Garon, Andrea Amortegui, Joëlle Boudigou, Dominique Dionne, Jocelyne Lamothe, Nathalie Germain, Josée Méthot, Annie Dutil and Lucie Ste-Croix.

A whole section of the Québec Mines 2012 program focused on women in the mining industry. The tone had already been set at the beginning of the year, when a woman, Dominique Dionne, Vice-President at Xstrata Nickel and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Québec Mining Association, was asked to serve as honorary chair of the conference, a role she filled with distinction.

Activities surrounding the role of women in the mining industry began with a lunch conference featuring ten dedicated women. They discussed their career paths and experiences, and their perception of the changing role of women in the mining industry. At the end of the day, Dominique Dionne gave a very well-received presentation on the importance of diversity in mining companies. "I am particularly pleased that we have had the opportunity to talk about women in our industry, about their role, contribution and potential. There is a lot we can do to improve inclusion and diversity in our companies and I think it starts with gender diversity," she said.

A special presentation organized by Women in Mining Canada was also held in the form of a plenary session focusing on women in the industry and the challenges and opportunities they face. Measures to be implemented to ensure that women are better represented in the various spheres of the mining industry were also discussed.


Many industries have long been dominated by men, and mining is no exception. In fact, a study entitled The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources highlights that women are still under-represented, particularly in senior management and boards of directors of mining companies. In fact, according to the 2012 Annual Report Card of the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC), Canada’s mining industry has the most board seats (809 of 3,992 in the 500 largest organizations) but only 8% are held by women, while the national average is 14%. But why are women under-represented? According to the first study mentioned, there are several reasons. They include workplace culture, which exerts considerable pressure on women, who feel that they have to prove themselves by working harder than men. In addition, since most women working for mining companies work on the support side of the organization, they often have difficulty rising to senior management positions, which tend to be offered to employees on the operational side.

The lack of formal policies to facilitate work-life balance also contributes to the persistence of a male-dominated workplace culture. Women occupying senior positions are required to travel frequently for work, regardless of their family responsibilities, and this requirement discourages many of them. Work-life balance is a major challenge for women in the industry, as some of the participants pointed out, having juggled their careers and family lives.

Finally, the fact that mining companies do not have enough formal mentoring and networking policies and programs to facilitate the professional advancement of women within their organization is another of the main reasons that women are under-represented in senior management positions and on boards of directors.


In general, the ideas expressed by women at Québec Mines 2012 are similar to those set out in the study conducted by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership in November 2012. Women present at the various activities considered that change had to be initiated by the mining industry itself. In fact, as mentioned in the study, mining companies need to develop and implement multifaceted strategies that address cultural change, as well as specific initiatives that are incorporated into their operational priorities. They should also initiate policies and practices that support family-related responsibilities for both their male and female employees.

The industry should build partnerships with governments, schools and academia to attract women and support their participation in the trades. Simple changes should also be made when women start working at a mine, such as adjustments to equipment, for example.

Once all these solutions have been implemented, it is safe to say that women will be more attracted to mining trades and occupations, and contribute their full potential to the industry.

Québec Mines 2012

The special focus on women at Québec Mining 2012 allowed attendees to discover strong women who are proud of their careers—and who are also very confident that others will follow in their footsteps and ensure that women have a place in the mining industry.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of the data mentioned in this article is from the study entitled The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources, conducted in November 2012 by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership.

The MRN’s geological and mining map

Would you like to be aware of new geological discoveries in Quebec, new mining projects or where claims are located? A few clicks now allow you to view and query Sigéom’s geological and mining map designed by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN).

Click here so see the map
(in French only)

Display of general geology at a scale of 1:2,000,000.

Thériault, R. (2012) - DV 2012-06.

You can use this free Web application to locate and view a wealth of geological and mining data for Québec (geological units, mineral deposits, diamond drilling, mines and projects, etc.) and link it to mining (mining operations, claims) and geographical (satellite images, hydrography, topography, etc.) information.

Features include rapid display, powerful zoom, selection, transparency of information layers, data queries, plus the ability to print the map obtained. This easy-to-use application makes geological, mining, and geographical data more user-friendly and accessible. Another significant advantage of the interactive map is that it allows access to data in real time, that is, to continuously updated information. This is a particularly strategic factor for some users.

It should also be noted that the interactive map was tested in multiple browsers: Internet Explorer 7+, Firefox 3+, Chrome 16+ and Opera 10+.

For more details, visit E-Sigeom.


Report on mining in 2012

The Report on Mineral Exploration Activities continues to evolve, and the 2012 edition includes occupational health and safety issues.

In the first pages of the Report, readers will find highlights and a brief description of the global economic situation and of geoscience work carried out or planned by the MRN.

  • Chapter 4 concentrates on mineral exploration and development activities in Québec, which generated an exceptional $834 million in spending in 2011.
  • Chapter 5 focuses on mining operations, paying special attention to the value of ore shipments, which also reached a historic high of $8.1 billion in 2011.
  • The other sections or chapters of the 2012 report present the royalties collected over the past two years, since the new mining royalty regime came into force; the amounts paid as a financial guarantee to the Québec government by operators; mine rehabilitation work under way; proposed legislative changes; the labor market; and direct and indirect jobs created by the mining industry.

In addition to the topics mentioned in the introduction, the new pages of the report focus on environmental protection and Aboriginal relations. For both, it highlights, without denying environmental liabilities, the mining industry’s willingness, today, to develop mines responsibly, sustainably and harmoniously. Finally, it addresses occupational health and safety issues to show that the mining industry’s record in this area is more than positive.

The 2012 Report on Mineral Exploration Activities is available free of charge in PDF format on the MRN website.

Send us your comments and suggestions!

The Ministère des Ressources naturelles
supports Research and Innovation

The new NSERC/Agnico-Eagle Industrial Research Chair in Mineral Exploration

The Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN) is providing $20,000 a year for five years to support the creation of the NSERC/Agnico-Eagle Industrial Research Chair in Mineral Exploration.  

This project will build up expertise that is missing in mineral exploration. The creation of this Chair will foster the development of exploration methods based on indicator minerals to discover the next generation of gold deposits, as well as the training of highly qualified personnel. Note that this expertise is now in demand, not only in the industry but also in government agencies responsible for understanding geoscience and for mapping Québec and Canada.

Professor Georges Beaudoin, of Université Laval’s Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, is the Chairholder. An internationally recognized expert, Professor Beaudoin has a proven track record in carrying out innovative research and training highly qualified personnel. His reputation has also allowed him to play a significant role as a session chair and Emeritus lecturer at events organized by the MRN. His expertise was key to the conference program’s success.

News from the UQAT-UQAM Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship

The UQAT-UQAM Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship is an initiative of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Ministère des Ressources Naturelles (MRN). The Chair in itself is an innovative partnership initiative that brings together experts from many disciplines of management and earth sciences, including the co-holders of the Chair, two world-class researchers, Suzanne Durand of UQAT and Michel Jébrak of UQAM. The Chair also relies on the expertise of entrepreneurs, managers and professionals from various backgrounds.

Since 2011, the MRN’s support has been represented by a budget of $150,000 per year for five years. In 2012, several research results were presented. For example, a study on the governance of junior exploration companies showed that 98% of company presidents have a university education and 44% are geologists. In addition, the book 100 innovations dans le secteur minier (100 Innovations in the Mining Industry), published by Minalliance, was quickly sold out and an English version was released at the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) conference in Edmonton. In terms of training, the Chair has contributed to the development and opening of a graduate microprogram in management applied to the mining industry and an executive MBA specialization, given at UQAT. It also held two seminars and two colloquiums on the topics of resource development in Aboriginal communities, governance, social responsibility, mining entrepreneurship and mining innovation.

In 2013, several projects addressing the success of exploration companies, mining entrepreneurship in Québec and the origins of mining innovations are ongoing, and others related to mining and sustainable development, as well as mine development in Northern Quebec are being developed.

Meet an expert, Pierre Lacoste

A noted expert in mineralogy and mineral identification, author and co-author of several geological reports, geologist Pierre Lacoste, a Montréal resident, has been working at the Ministère des Ressources naturelles for several years. The Québec Mines bulletin asked him a few questions.

Beginning the day with our feet in the water in Abitibi ... during the last century, in 1985!
(Roch Gaudreau in front, Benoit Perrier on the left and Pierre Lacoste on the right)

Bulletin Québec Mines (QMB) – You have been a geologist for many years. You signed and co-signed many geological reports. How did you develop this interest in geology and earth science?

Pierre Lacoste (PL) – Like many young people, I had a small collection of minerals and rocks, from the MRN, that I looked at carefully. But my interest in geology developed a little late and almost by accident. Until college, I was interested in medicine or medical research and was preparing to study it. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I started my bachelor’s degree at UQAM during the winter session and was hired the following summer to work in the field in Baie-James (the James Bay area), in geochemistry. Conditions were very difficult: four of us living in a tent for three months, traveling by canoe and eating a lot of fish. In short, it was memorable and very out of the ordinary. I then worked two more summers as a "super-junior" in Val-d’Or, mapping ultramafic rocks. It was a new field with plenty of openings at the time. Continuing my master’s studies at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) and my PhD at Laval University allowed me to focus on topics and themes that have always interested me, such as volcanology, mineralization, petrology and metamorphism. I was also fortunate to work with people who taught me a lot and who let me share their knowledge, expertise and life experiences.

Leading a workshop during
Québec Mines for all.

QMB – Mapping seems to be an important part of your work. You began your career at the MRN as a cartographer. You mapped several regions of Québec, the last summers being spent in the Côte-Nord region. What makes mapping so interesting?

PL – Each region has its own characteristics and you always find out a lot when you go into the field. At its core, a geologist’s job is field work. During my studies and later, the various places where I worked, such as the Abitibi, Estrie, Gaspésie, Saguenay, and Côte-Nord regions, as well as the Laurentians and the Far North, have been interesting in different ways because of the types of rocks and geologic phenomena occurring there. The more you see, the more interesting it gets, because you try to compare and understand. During fieldwork, life with your team is interesting; I like teamwork and I find it easy to adapt to people and various situations.

QMB – You are known for your expertise in mineralogy and microscopic identification of minerals. How did you become an expert in this area?

PL – I developed the expertise over many years. At the master’s degree level, we examined a lot of rock samples and thin sections, and that continued throughout my doctoral studies. I also worked for seven years at the Centre de recherches minérales (mineral research centre) (now COREM) as a mineralogist and project leader in materials characterization. During that period, the optical microscope and various other identification devices were my primary tools. I also worked with people to whom mineralogy and the microscope were important and I am extremely grateful. It takes a lot of time and practice.

QMB – You are making a major contribution to the acquisition of geological knowledge, but you are also working to pass it on. You are a lecturer at UQAM. How do you feel about it?

PL – I enjoy it a lot; I find it very rewarding; it is also a kind of knowledge transfer. The work is very intense; I try to explain the material or concept as I would have liked to be taught—with examples, in a clear and sometimes personalized way. I regularly visit laboratories and microscope rooms; I talk to students and give them a hand or answer their questions. That is the advantage of having our offices at the University; I can make the students aware of the MRN.

During training sessions for primary and secondary school teachers, Pierre is always part of the panel of experts.

QMB – You are very involved in educational program Géologie pour tous, especially during trade fairs open to the public, workshops in schools, etc. What do you tell the people and students you meet?

PL – The educational component is important to initiate and inform people, be it the general public or students in schools. The visits to schools began a few years ago with one to three visits a year, and have now grown to include 15 to 20 schools. Each visit involves two to three classes, sometimes four, with about 20 students apiece. I tell them about various rocks and minerals and about work as a geologist. I bring samples; I have a presentation with lots of pictures and I identify samples the students bring in; they are amazed. Their eyes and minds are wide open and they have plenty of questions. I am also involved in Montréal mineral clubs, the Innovateurs program, Québec’s Communicateurs scientifiques association, and the Conseil des loisirs scientifiques de Montréal.

Québec is looking forward to seeing you at the PDAC Convention

The Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN) is looking forward to seeing you at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) 2013 Convention, which will be held from March 3 to 6 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The MRN mines sector and its partners will be at Québec’s booth to welcome you.

You can find out more about:

  • Québec’s mineral potential and recently completed geoscience work
  • The SIGÉOM and GESTIM databases
  • Mining development
  • Laws and regulations

The following MRN partners will also be present to promote Québec: Investissement QuébecRessources Québec – Soquem, the Cree Mineral Exploration Board, the Nunavik Mineral Exploration Fund, the Corporation de promotion du développement minéral de la Côte-Nord, DIVEX, and CONSOREM.


The MRN is taking advantage of this international showcase to release results of a study of the mineral potential of Québec’s Far North (Ungava Orogen) that highlights highly prospective areas for orogenic gold.

In addition, the MRN will announce the results of two new magnetic and gamma-ray spectrometry surveys in the southeastern portion of the Churchill Province. One survey covers the central part of the Labrador Trough, northwest of Schefferville, while the other covers the northwestern portion of the Core Zone, southeast of Kuujjuaq. These airborne surveys cover 45 NTS sheets at a scale of 1:50,000, for a total area of 35,744 km2. Two reports (DP 2013-02 and DP 2013-03) presenting all the technical aspects of the surveys, geophysical maps at a scale of 1:50,000, and associated digital data will also be published on the MRN’s website, through "E-Sigeom (Examine)". An interpretation of gamma-ray spectrometry data from these two surveys has identified a few possible uranium exploration targets, as well as regional anomalies. This work will be published in a promotional document (PRO 2013-01)

The results of a major regional geochemical survey (1 sample per 13 km2) of lake sediments will also be presented at the Convention. In fall 2012, more than 6,100 samples were taken in the southwestern portion of the Grenville Province, north of urban areas along the rivière des Outaouais (Ottawa River) and the fleuve St-Laurent (St. Lawrence River). No lake sediment samples had been collected in the past and only stream sediment samples were available in this region. The Kipawa area, known for its potential for rare earth mineralization, was surveyed with a higher sample density (1 sample per 4 km2) to detect geochemical signatures typical of this region. Such signatures can then be sought in areas of the Grenville Province with lower data density to identify new exploration targets for rare earth mineralization.

A new map of overburden thickness in the Abitibi Subprovince will also be presented. The map, which covers an area of 23,000 km2 and includes more than 400,000 control points, will be very useful for exploration models of this region.

Québec Mines 2013

The Québec Mines conference will be back from November 11 to 14, 2013. Add these dates to your calendar right away!

The Québec Mines conference results from a partnership promoting cooperation and sharing of expertise. It is organized by the MRN in cooperation with the Québec Mining Association, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, the Comité sectoriel de main-d’œuvre de l’industrie des mines, the Institut national des mines, Québec International and the Québec Chamber of Commerce and Industry.