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


The project helps identify potential new mineral development opportunities in British Columbia. It built a comprehensive, open source database of information about the composition of gold grains collected from streams and mineral deposits around BC.

Project results have increased understanding of a range of compositional gold signatures from within complex geological settings in BC. The alloy compositions of gold particles, together with inclusions of metals such as copper, palladium or mercury, have in many cases proven capable of discriminating between gold derived from different types of deposits.

Research Statement

This project analyzed thousands of gold grains previously collected in BC and stored at The University of British Columbia (UBC) and University of Leeds, UK.


Detrital gold found in streams can indicate that significant mineralization is nearby. Understanding the composition of the gold and tiny inclusions contained within can help to identify the type of mineral deposit the gold comes from, and support geologists 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 datasets through ground-truthing studies, data interpretation and mining camp scale compilations.

Specifically, this project:

  • Considered over 11,800 gold particles from 160 localities across BC, representing nine mineral deposit types.
  • Published two papers and compositional data for all gold particles that contributed to the study.

Project Benefits

Analyzing, evaluating and recording thousands of gold grains creates a reference to help geologists use grains of gold to target specific gold-bearing deposit types. The results can assist researchers in discriminating gold from different mineralizing system types, and can support future research to further identify compositional nuances between gold from different deposit types.


The gold grain samples used in this project were collected by researchers and students at UBC and the University of Leeds over many years from sites throughout BC, including:

  • Atlin, Cassiar, Kemess, KSM, Mount Milligan, Wells-Barkerville, Highland Valley/Afton, Copper Mountain, Britannia, Godon R/Youbou, Bolivar, Zeballos, and Blackdome.

Geoscience BC encourages anyone planning exploration work to first contact Indigenous groups in the area. The Province of British Columbia’s Consultative Areas Database can help with this ( The Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) also produces an Indigenous Engagement Guidebook.

What Was Found

The project used 11,800 gold grains from 160 localities in UBC and University of Leeds collections. Existing data from prior studies was augmented through enhanced inclusion suite analysis as well as analysis of grains previously collected but not analyzed. This resulted in compositional templates for specific deposit types.

Building on research undertaken in previous Geoscience BC-supported projects, the researchers found that detailed petrographic studies of samples of gold-bearing ore from various deposit types confirmed a correlation between mineralogy of gold from orogenic and low-sulphidation epithermal systems, and the compositional signatures of detrital gold particles in their erosional products. Therefore, a study of the inclusion suites within detrital gold from locations where the source is unknown can be used to aid identification of source through a comparison with deposit-specific inclusion suites from other localities.