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NEBC Lithium - Formation Water Database

Lead Researcher(s):  K. Rakhit

Key Researcher(s):  C. Williams, E. Pelletier, H. Abercrombie, T. Wilson

Project ID:  2021-001

Key Research Organization(s):  Canadian Discovery Ltd., Matrix Solutions Inc.

Project Location:  Northeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Energy-Resources


Listed on Canada’s Critical Minerals List, lithium is used widely in applications such as lithium-ion batteries and plays a pivotal role in electrification and meeting net-zero emissions targets. This study is using existing natural gas and oil wells to collect saltwater (brine) samples from formations in northeast British Columbia and analyze them to create maps showing concentrations of lithium and other metals. Comparable studies in Alberta and Saskatchewan have resulted in significant investment and economic development. Geoscience BC has a collaboration agreement to provide brine samples to Natural Resources Canada for its complementary lithium research, and to receive sampling analysis support in return.

This project is a collaboration between the Geoscience BC, LithiumBank, Natural Resources Canada and Northern Development.

The Need

Studies in Alberta and Saskatchewan have shown potential for extracting lithium from brines in subsurface formations, which has led to significant investment and economic development. No such research has been conducted in northeast BC despite similar, and in some respects more favourable, geologic conditions for lithium-enriched brines.

This project is creating a legacy database of lithium, other elements and water chemistry properties and concentrations in northeast BC. The study will also generate northeast BC favourability maps for prospective formations based on formation flow rates and lithium concentrations. The public, peer-reviewed results will help the natural resource sectors, governments, communities, Indigenous groups and academia further understand the potential for lithium extraction from brines in the region.


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

  • Improve cost competitiveness of the Montney Play through advanced science and innovative geoscience technologies.

Specifically, the goals for this project are to:

  • Collect up to 500 samples from 12 prospective subsurface formations. Samples will be collected from currently producing natural gas and oil operations. Data integrity is maintained through the collection and analysis of blank (reference) samples as part of the program.
  • Analyze brine samples for a full suite of physical and chemical parameters to produce a preliminary brine characterization data set. Key analysis outputs will be concentrations of lithium, boron, bromine and iodine as well as a full suite of other elements and water properties.
  • Provide a high-level scoping economics evaluation.
  • Create a favourability map for prospective formations based on formation flow rates and lithium concentrations, thereby high grading areas with significant potential in northeast BC.


According to the World Bank’s Climate-Smart Mining: Minerals for Climate Action report, global production of metals such as lithium could grow by nearly 500% by 2050 to meet growing demand for clean energy technologies.

Lithium is included on the Government of Canada’s Critical Minerals List, which states that these minerals are critical for the sustainable economic success of Canada and our allies and to position Canada as the leading mining nation as set out in the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan”.

This project is the first research to map lithium concentrations in northeast BC. It is expected to attract significant new ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investment in the region, and to help diversify the region’s economy. The project will also train subject matter experts (SMEs) and highly qualified persons (HQPs) and will generate peer-reviewed journal articles.

Project Advisory Committee

A volunteer Project Advisory Committee (PAC) is advising and guiding Geoscience BC and the research team. It oversees the overall technical direction of the project and provides technical input to maximize the project’s technical value. Members of the PAC are:

  • Daniel Alessi, University of Alberta (Chair)
  • Sobhi Alhashwa, Ovintiv
  • Colin Frostad, Tourmaline
  • Erik Munson, Shell (Vice Chair)

Location Details

This project will collect up to 500 samples from 12 prospective subsurface formations using existing natural gas wells in northeast BC. The research is taking place in the territories of Treaty 8 First Nations.