November 2014    Print this article

A New Module for Quaternary Geology

Hugo Dubé-Loubert, Guillaume Allard, Virginie Daubois, Mohamed El Amrani and Charles Roy
Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

The Système d’information géominière du Québec (SIGÉOM) is the cornerstone of geoscientific information dissemination in Québec. It’s a database containing geological information from government surveys and mining industry exploration. New elements have been integrated over the years and recently the SIGÉOM team developed a module that enables the integration of Quaternary geology. Quaternary geology is the branch of geology that documents surface sedimentary formations deposited from the great Pleistocene glaciations.

History of Quaternary Geology at the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

In 2008, following the launching of the groundwater knowledge acquisition program (PACES) funded by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC), it was agreed that the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN) would be responsible for surface cartography for PACES projects. The MERN accepted to be the depository for the data gathered and surface maps produced and undertook responsibility for ensuring the dissemination of such information. A team was set up and work commenced concurrently on the SIGÉOM-Quaternary module.

The SIGÉOM-Quaternary Module

Prior to 2008, the SIGÉOM database already contained Quaternary geology data. In the period 1980 to1990, Ghismond Martineau, a geologist and quaternary specialist with the MERN, developed the basic module for the integration and dissemination of Quaternary geology data. Some 20 years later, it became evident that the structure of the Quaternary module needed to be reviewed to catch up with scientific progress after 25 years of inactivity. Essentially, the redevelopment of the module lay in the reorganization of the already existing components and the upgrading of the data model and legend settings. The priority changes consisted of harmonizing the Quaternary cartography legend of the Ministère with that of the Geological Survey of Canada (Parent et al., 2010) in order that all Quaternary work carried out in Québec be disseminated according to a uniform classification and legend.

New structure and dissemination of data 

The structure of the SIGÉOM-Quaternary module comprises several categories called entities:

  1. Morpho-sedimentological zone
  2. Surface morphology
  3. Chronological data
  4. Sites of stratigraphical interest and control points
  5. Erratics
  6. Glacial erosion marks

A number of surface deposit maps produced in the past years can be downloaded. The surface morphology accompanying these cartographical projects is also available. The À la carte SIGÉOM search engine enables searches according to various criteria: NTS sheet, type of sedimentological deposit, type of surface morphology, associated “Examine” document number, etc. Search results can be requested, as needed. The formats used for the delivery of various products comprise the geographical database files from the firm ArcGIS (FGDB) and the ShapeFile format. The requested vectorial documents contain the MERN signature in relation to the cartographical settings (symbols, colours, etc.).

A number of other maps produced in recent decades should soon be available to clients. Also, in the coming months, the other entities (geochronological data, erratics, etc.) will also be available, with the gradual integration of new data.

It should be noted that the SIGÉOM database also contains a surface deposit geochemistry entity. This entity, which existed prior to the development of the Quaternary module, groups together all analyses performed in the secondary environment (tills, eskers, lakebed sediment samples, etc.). Depending on the type of sample analyzed, users can do searches according to a multitude of criteria. For example, for the same glacial sediment sample (till), users can select analyses of the fine fraction (silt-clay) or the heavy fraction (heavy mineral concentrates) of the matrix and also select the sample-taking method (rotasonic drilling, reverse circulation drilling, etc.). An addition to this entity should soon allow for the integration of analyses done on indicator minerals, to complete the “Geochemistry” section of the SIGÉOM-Quaternary module.

Building the SIGÉOM-Quaternary module has required a major design development effort. Its development has been possible thanks to the collaboration of many actors involved in Quaternary geology in Québec (universities, Geological Survey of Canada, etc.) and employees from various divisions of the MERN. When completed, its development and improvements will provide access to an exhaustive and uniform databank on Quaternary geology for the entire province of Québec. Moreover, it will ensure a permanent record of this information for Québec society.

Everything is available on the internet at:


Parent M., Paradis S.J. and Boivin R. (2010). Formations superficielles : légende et notes descriptives- 1/50 000 à 1/125 000. Version 11, unpublished.

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