--> string(10) "[Minerals]"

Characterization of Gold Compositions in British Columbia

Lead Researcher(s):  R. Chapman

Project ID:  2018-013

Key Research Organization(s):  University of Leeds

Project Location:  British Columbia

Strategic Focus Area:  Minerals


This project will help to identify potential new mineral development opportunities in British Columbia by building a comprehensive, open source database of information about the composition of gold grains collected from streams and mineral deposits around BC.

The database will combine new and existing data about microscopic inclusions within more than 9,000 grains of gold. It will be accompanied by a manual explaining how machine learning techniques could be applied to the data to identify if the mineralizing systems that the grains originate from.

Research Statement

This project will analyze thousands of gold grains stored at The University of British Columbia (UBC) and University of Leeds, UK, while also compiling and digitizing previous analyses performed by researchers and students as parts of other studies.


Gold grains found in streams can indicate that significant mineralization is nearby. Many gold grains look the same on the outside, but understanding their composition of tiny inclusions contained within the gold can help to identify if the gold comes from a type of deposit that is typically smaller or uneconomic, or if they from a deposit type that is larger and multi-metallic and therefore potentially economically viable.

Throughout BC, there is a long history of collecting gold from streams, and techniques to determine the ‘upstream’ bedrock source continue to improve.

Analyzing and evaluating these thousands of gold grains will create a database that will allow geologists to identify the deposit type of origin for the gold grains and aid in searching for a deposit.


This project fits under Geoscience BC’s Strategic Objective of ‘Identifying New Natural Resource Opportunities’ and our goal to:

  • Undertake research that adds value to existing or ongoing data sets through ground-truthing studies, data interpretation and mining camp scale compilations.

Specifically, this project is:

  • Collecting and digitizing historic gold grain composition and source mineralization data stored in existing databases, reports, and theses at UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit, and in the collection of BC gold grain data at the University of Leeds;
  • Analyzing gold grains through a series of analytical methods including electron microprobe, scanning electron microprobe and laser-ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer;
  • Creating a new database of gold inclusions and evaluating its contents using traditional data interpretation methods; and,
  • Developing a step-by-step user guide to apply machine learning to interrogate the data in the new database.

Project Benefits

Analyzing and evaluating thousands of gold grains will create a reference to help geologists use grains of gold to target specific deposit types. This database will be accompanied by a step-by-step user manual to apply machine learning techniques without the need for expert guidance and interpretation.  The machine learning manual will allow additional samples to be assessed against the database to guide exploration efforts.


The 9,000+ gold grain samples to be used in this project have been collected by researchers and students at UBC and the University of Leeds over many years from sites throughout BC, including:

  • The UBC collection: Black Dome, Cariboo, Coquihalla, Coquitlam, Cranbrook, Dease Lake, Princeton, McDame, Fraser, Kamloops, Lillooet/Bralorne, Okanagan, Omineca, Sheep Creek, Thompson River and Turnagain.
  • The University of Leeds collection: Afton, Atlin, Central Caribou Gold District, Copper Mountain, Mount Milligan, Mount Polley and Tranquille Creek.