In an novel approach to prospecting in remote areas, Geoscience BC and Noble Exploration Services Ltd have been taking samples from the top of old-growth spruce trees to look for trace amounts of gold and other minerals. Using a helicopter to quickly reach the tops of 80- to 100-year old trees, researchers too 421 samples over a 1000 square kilometer area in the Chilcotin Plateau in British Columbia.
Using the fact that spruce trees can take up trace amounts of minerals into their needles, bark, and cones, the survey was done in a tiny fraction of the time it would have taken to go into this remote area and dig for samples.
Part of GeoscienceBC's "Targeting Resources for Exploration and Knowledge" (TREK) program, the treetop sampling was done over six days last June. However, the results have just become available. The extensive report is sure to warm the cockles of a geologist's heart.
The organization explains the why and how of conducting the survey:
"The thick vegetation cover, few lakes and limited road networks in these areas has limited the types of survey techniques that could be applied. To address this problem, this study conducted a helicopter-supported, spruce-top twig-and-needle survey to test the feasibility of this type of approach and to generate new geochemical information that can be used to help locate hidden mineralization."
While not specifically looking for gold, the fact that the survey area is only 15 km south of the planned Blackwater gold project certainly raised expectations of a strike. Traces of a multitude of minerals and metals were found in the tree samples. Everything from potassium to lithium, copper to yttrium was found.
The project was a "proof of concept" endeavor, to test the suitability of this type of data collection. The helicopter was also used to get airborne magnetic readings of the terrain -- another method of finding ore deposits in remote areas.
Another survey was undertaken to identify any geothermal sites. Local First Nation tribes are interested in using geothermal energy for their most remote villages, which have to rely on diesel generators or propane for heat and power.
Now that the helicopter-assisted tree sampling seems to work, it will be used to survey larger areas for mineral deposits.
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