New Genomic Analytical Techniques May Help Find BC Mineral Deposits

Vancouver, BC – August 27, 2020 – Innovative genomic sequencing techniques could be used as a tool to identify mineral deposits, according to a new Geoscience BC report.

Tens of thousands of bacterial species live in every gram of soil. The Microbial-Community Fingerprints as Indicators for Buried Mineralization, in British Columbia report shows how analyzing their DNA could be used to locate mineral deposits buried beneath glacial overburden. This is a particular challenge for mineral exploration in large parts of BC.

“Soil microbes are very sensitive and responsive to chemical and physical changes in their environment,” said University of British Columbia (UBC) professor and project co-lead Sean Crowe. “Comparing the quantity and species of bacteria found in soil samples collected over ore deposits with soils from other areas can help to zero in on buried mineral deposits.”

The research team from the UBC departments of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and Microbiology and Immunology, and the Mineral Deposit Research Unit collected samples surrounding two copper porphyry deposits in BC’s South Central Region: Consolidated Woodjam Copper’s Deerhorn copper-gold (Cu-Au) deposit near Williams Lake; and Teck Resources Ltd.’s Highmont South copper-molybdenite (Cu-Mo) deposit at Highland Valley Copper near Kamloops.

By combining the results of high-throughput DNA sequencing with geomicrobiological knowledge, the researchers identified groups of indicator bacterial species that help distinguish soils above mineralization from background soils.

“We found that sequence-based anomaly detection is both sensitive and robust, and could go a long way towards helping discover new mineral resources,” said microbiologist and lead report author Rachel Simister.

Commenting on the results, Geoscience BC Vice President, Minerals Christa Pellett, said: “This project is a good example of Geoscience BC supporting the application of innovative technologies for mineral exploration, and confirms the potential for using genomic sequencing as a tool to identify mineral deposits beneath glacial sediments.”

This project was co-led by Dr. Peter Winterburn and Geoscience BC would like to acknowledge Dr. Winterburn’s valuable and lasting legacy, which includes this project. We would also like to thank his colleagues for continuing the research after his passing.

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For more information, please contact:
Richard Truman
Geoscience BC